An uplifting tale

One petitioner who appeared before the HS2 Select Committee recently, a certain Mr J D Silverwood, appeared to charm the pants off the five Members present. He also charmed and impressed me. Some of us who claim to be concerned about protecting our natural environment content ourselves with posting blogs about it; Mr Silverwood has actually done something, well actually quite a lot, to preserve and improve the countryside in a small patch in the Trent Valley.

His hearing in front of the Committee may be found from paragraph 122 onwards in the transcript, and from about 10.28am in the video.

He told the Committee that he felt very much out of his depth, as it had been sixty years since his last visit to London. He set out his personal credo:

“I have always been interested in nature, in conservation and farming but it wasn’t until the 1970s that I actually made myself a promise and that promise was that I would endeavour, insofar as I would be capable, with land over which I might have some influence, that I would leave this planet earth at the end of my human existence better than when I arrived in 1934.”

Mr Silverwood has found a practical way to improve at least a small part of planet earth, whilst enriching the lives of the “less abled”. In 1987 he set off on a 7,000 mile round Britain coastal walk to raise money, which he used to set up the Combined Handicapped and Disabled Society (CHADS). This society aims to “make nature available” to all, but specifically those who are not able to access it for themselves, and does this by providing facilities especially laid out and adapted for the needs of the less abled in Lichfield and for the surrounding areas”.

Since these early beginnings, Mr Silverwood has spent 25 years “totally committed” to the promise that he made to himself. He said that he had “planted personally something like 10,000 trees” and that “a similar amount have been planted by other people”. Much of this effort has gone into 24 ha of flood plain, purchased from British Coal in the early 1990s, that has become Trentside Meadows Nature Reserve. The hard work has been rewarded by the reserve being granted the status of Site of Biological Importance (SBI) Grade 1 by Lichfield District Council.

The great tragedy of this otherwise uplifting story is that, if the consultation route for Phase 2 of HS2 is confirmed, the track will run straight across Trentside Meadows on a viaduct, and in Mr Silverwood’s words “virtually the whole of that site will be irrelevant from a nature point of view”.

I think that this tale confirms that Mr Silverwood can justly claim to be an environmentalist, albeit a practical rather than academic one. So I was interested to hear him express his views on the environmental competence of HS2 Ltd, which he described as “cynicism”. He recounted what had happened on a recent visit to his society’s premises by a deputation of four from HS2 Ltd, of which one was an “environmentalist”. He said that when the visitors were returning from being taken to see Trentside Meadows the environmentalist had misidentified a guelder rose as cranberry. Mr Silverwood’s reaction to this display of lack of plant knowledge was one of “despair” at the “degree of competence by the environmentalists who are running the show”.

Now you may regard this as homespun philosophy and, perhaps, a trifle unfair on the unnamed HS2 Ltd representative, but subsequent to Mr Silverwood’s comment, we have seen two chartered environmentalists appear before the Committee also expressing doubts about the environmental work that has been carried out by HS2 Ltd, but you will have to wait until my next posting for more on that.

Important Note: The document from which the quotes reproduced in this blog are taken is an uncorrected transcript of evidence, which is not yet an approved formal record of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on November 16, 2014 at 9:52 am

    There are many such people. Farmers, estate managers, residents. It is the Adonis judgement in 2010 without full understanding of any alternative route which concerns many people. Please avoid the focus on petitioners and think about the many silent people not being involved and not involved in the changes to route alignments please.

    Last week the House of Lords appearance of Lord Adonis and Network Rail sums up from the Lords and Baroness questioning people and local decision makers recognise the shortcuts stemming from Lord Adonis’s judgment over full analysis which would have include proper options selections of alternative routes, other routes and alternatives.

    The corridors of power jumped the opportunity to legitimately make the changes the Select Committee cannot make. We have sunk to lower relevance through a stubborn Lord Adonis, Hammond and Greening process which lowers the extent of greening.

    This was anti-British. Did you dictate was the question from one Lord. What would you have done if the BCR was lower. Would you fiddle in. A weak smile said a lot.

    Reply

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