Aylesbury Vale councillors take John Bercow on tour of HS2 construction sites

John Bercow with local councillors and anti-HS2 campaigners
John Bercow with local councillors and anti-HS2 campaigners

MP for Buckingham and Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow visited two North Buckinghamshire villages on Friday to see for himself the impact of the construction of HS2.

MP for Buckingham and Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow visited two North Buckinghamshire villages on Friday to see for himself the impact of the construction of HS2.

John Bercow closely inspects HS2 work

John Bercow closely inspects HS2 work

Accompanied by councillors Angela Macpherson, Frank Mahon, Phil Gaskin, John Chilver and anti-HS2 campaigner Linda Knights, this reporter was invited to join the ride-along through Calvert Green and Steeple Claydon.

The key issues on the agenda were the raising of the height of the track and the building of a batching plant at Calvert Green, and the destruction of the countryside surrounding Steeple Claydon that ultimately drove anti-HS2 group 'Save Our Countryside' to take direct action by standing in front of works vehicles.

While there can be no questioning of Mr Bercow's opposition to the high-speed rail project and his efforts to support his constituents, he had some sobering words for the group. The Speaker said:

“There isn't a Parliamentary majority against HS2.

Picture showing approximate site of batching plant and proximity to residents

Picture showing approximate site of batching plant and proximity to residents

“The only people that are explicitly, vociferously against it are a small number of MPs affected in their own constituencies.”

Referring to the visit by Mr Bercow and what he hopes to achieve from the day, Calvert Green parish councillor Phil Gaskin said:

“Fundamentally we want to move the batching plant to a different location so it's away from the community. It wasn't anything that was ever covered in any of the documentation previously, so it's something very new and it's going to be a massive impact on the community.”

The local councillors took their MP to the bridge over the track in Calvert Green to demonstrate the proximity of the track and the planned batching plant to the village.

Batching plant example

Batching plant example

As we reported two weeks ago, HS2 communicated at the beginning of June this year that the track through Calvert Green would be raised by three metres from the original drawings, as well as providing a fuller scope of the size and description of the batching plant.

Councillor Phil Gaskin continued:

“The fact that HS2 used the depth of the line as a mitigating factor for the previous petition and now they're saying it won't make any difference - they're contradicting themselves.

“For me the real focus is on what is essentially an industrial batching facility. To have that on the doorstep on top of everything else that's going on is one step too far. We feel misled because the image that they showed us at the roadshow in Calvert they'd actually put on the back of the information board. It's all a little bit underhand in my opinion.”

HS2 are building 345 miles of new high-speed track which will connect the city centres of London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds.

In March this year, ministers delayed signing off on the first half of spending for HS2 (London to The Midlands) until December due to concerns over spiralling costs. The cost was originally projected to be £32.7bn in 2010 but the Government now estimates it to be £56bn.

Work is just starting to get underway and will be completed in 2033. Recently the leaders of both Bucks County Council and Aylesbury Vale District Council wrote to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to request that work be halted until the notice to proceed has been given in December but their pleas were rejected by the Government minister.