HS2 slammed by grieving parents after 'destroying memorial site'

Parents have been left devastated after contractors for HS2 ‘desecrated’ a memorial site for children by ripping out trees which had been planted in their names.

Thursday, 19th November 2020, 9:51 am
Updated Thursday, 19th November 2020, 9:52 am
The Rennie Grove Memorial near Wendover

The peaceful woodland site, which lies in the rolling Buckinghamshire countryside, was created ten years ago after the land was gifted to a local hospice charity, and contained touching

tributes to dozens of children who had lost their lives after battling illness and disability.

The land is near the Wendover train station.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Some children had their ashes scattered among the 450 native British saplings at the picturesque spot.

But grieving parents visiting the one-acre site recently were distraught to find that workers for the £100billion high-speed rail link had fenced off part of the site, ripped out trees and ‘thrown

them into a pile’ in order to build a fully enclosed ‘green tunnel’ around the new route.

Yvonne Tanner, 46, from Aylesbury, Bucks, lost her daughter, Alanya, who was born with severe disabilities, when she was just 11 years old.

She told The Mail on Sunday she was left ‘hysterical’ after visiting on what would have been the anniversary of Alanya’s death to find her tree cut down, and a memorial stone they had placed in tribute to her daughter was missing.

"It wasn’t just a bunch of trees,’ she said. ‘They represented children who had been taken too soon and yet they had been carelessly thrown into a pile.

"I’d go there to be close to Alanya – we would take her a balloon, plant bulbs around the oak tree, or wrap a garland around the mesh supporting the sapling. I just can’t understand how

heartless HS2 has been – it’s a travesty. What have they done with the memorial stones? Were they just thrown in the bin?

"My heart is broken. It feels like I’ve lost her all over again."

Alanya’s father, Dean, 52, added: "It really is the lowest of the low to desecrate a memorial to dead children. Of all the things that anyone can do, that’s the very worst.

"If HS2 needed to use the site, they could have dealt with the matter sensitively, making sure that the families of the children whose memorials were there were given the opportunity to dig

up their trees and remove their memorial stones."

The London to Birmingham section of the HS2 route passes through the Buckinghamshire countryside and has faced significant controversy over its escalating costs and environmental

impact.

It is set to improve travel times between London, the Midlands and the north, and those who back the project say it will provide greener transport options.

But campaigners say it is set to destroy ancient woodlands and ecosystems, and wreck communities and livelihoods.

While the memorial woodland is not directly in the path of the new route line, it is understood the space is needed to divert utility services and to store tools and equipment.

The charity which manages the site, Rennie Grove Hospice Care, is said to only have been told that HS2 would take possession of the site, and not that the trees would be cut down.

Staff at the charity are understood to have ‘tried tirelessly to contact HS2’ to discuss other possible sites for the work, which did not involve removing the memorials. However, HS2 were

‘unhelpful and unwilling’ to discuss other solutions.

A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd said: ‘In order to build Wendover’s green tunnel, which will reduce noise and disruption for the surrounding community, we unfortunately need to clear a section of woodland planted ten years ago by the Rennie Grove Hospice, which has since relocated out of the town.

"We informed the hospice and the landowner a month in advance, providing them with time to notify the families of the deceased who may have wanted to remove any fixed items before work starts."

Rennie Grove Hospice Care was not available for comment, but last year, its director of fundraising, Tracey Hancock, said it would be ‘very disappointing’ if the woodland was affected

by HS2 construction.