Coldharbour Parish Council furious after HS2 move in 'with no notice to residents'

Aylesbury MP Sir David Lidington has hit out at HS2 contractors after they have moved in to begin work at Fairford Leys 'with no notice' to local residents.

Monday, 14th October 2019, 3:14 pm
Residents have been caught by surprise because of how close the HS2 enabling works will take place next to Cooks Road

Council leaders have been highly critical of HS2's community engagement policies, which earlier this year Buckinghamshire County Council leader Martin Tett called 'hollow', and also bemoaned a "lack of meaningful and effective engagement in some local areas which are highly impacted."

MP Sir David Lidington said: "I am dismayed to learn this evening that HS2 Ltd has occupied land at Fairford Leys with no notice to Coldharbour Parish Council or local residents.

"Taking land despite what councillors believe were clear assurances to the contrary.

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"I will be raising this with Grant Shapps and the Department for Transport."

The work is taking place on a footpath near the end of the village, along Andrews Close, Eyre Close, Cooks Road, Warbler Close and Napier Road.

The football pitch car park will also be affected.

Steven Lambert, who sits on the Coldharbour Parish Council, BCC and AVDC however was not impressed with our MP's 'intervention'.

He said MP David's tweet was 'laughable'.

Steven said: "As a community we've been living under the threat of HS2 for nine years, and now it's becoming a reality.

"I went to House of Commons and Lords Select committees in 2013 making the case that we should not have this done to us, it's our home. However seeing as it was going to be forced onto the people of Fairford Leys, we would fight for the best possible mitigation we could get.

"It became very clear during those meetings that our MP would not be fighting our corner by voting against it or challenging it in the house.

"The work is effectively cutting off a large chunk of public amenities space, we've already lost the golf course and work is taking place incredibly close to homes on Cooks Road.

"This is simply not acceptable. If this is how HS2 and fusion contractors are going to engage with communities in the preliminary works stage, I don't hold up much hope during the construction stage.

"We were given assurances that things like this wouldn't happen, yet here we are."

Stoke Mandeville, Hawksalde, the Willows estate are all set to suffer under HS2's planned works in the area.

Steven added: "So what's next? Chaining ourselves to trees? I will if I have to!

"I said at the time people wouldn't believe what was happening until the bulldozers showed up and started work.

"We need to establish a clear working agreement with HS2 and fusion on what will be taking place when.

"I just find it incredible that David is sending tweets out, after all his inaction over the years. The chickens are coming home to roost. Where has his support been?

"Sending a tweet? Well whoopie do!

Steven also said the blame has fallen unfairly at the door of Coldhabour Parish Council, when he feels that the lack of communication from Aylesbury Vale District Council is also to blame.

He said: "I've been a Parish Councillor since 2005. This is my home and community and it breaks my heart to see AVDC don't communicate with us, when they clearly knew what was about to take place.

"It's sad that they don't see the Parish Council as a valued partner.

"The officers simply haven't told me. I find this hugely disrespectful, as I also sit on the District Council.

"The Parish Council Facebook page has been inundated with messages blaming us, with questions from people who had no idea what was going to happen.

"All the good work we've been doing has been undone by the district council."

A spokesperson for AVDC said:

“We’ve worked hard to keep parishes informed on HS2 activities and defend their interests when HS2’s have told us what they intend to do.

"Indeed as far as this area is concerned, through careful and persistent discussion we have reduced the area required by HS2, and its contractor Fusion, very significantly.

“We were awaiting clarification from the Valuation Office on behalf of HS2 as to the final area of land in question.

"Unfortunately, there was a short delay in making members aware and we apologise to the Coldharbour local members for this delay”.

AVDC had been aware for some time that HS2 had issued a temporary possession order for a number of parcels of land in Fairford Leys.

They say that officers have been negotiating with HS2 to minimise the impact of HS2 in the area and the possession order covers much less land than they initially requested.

They did however add that it was the 'clear responsibility' of HS2 LTD to communicate any planned works to local residents and other stakeholders, and to give them 'sufficient notice'.

AVDC said in this instance, as far as they were aware this had not been done.

Angela Macpherson, Leader of AVDC, said:

“As an authority we have an obligation we can’t avoid to facilitate the lawful work of HS2 Ltd. However, in this case as in a number of other instances, HS2 Ltd has failed to live up to its responsibilities to engage with local communities in a timely and effective manner.

“Having become aware of this lack of communication we would urge HS2 Ltd, and its contractors, to postpone the implementation of these orders until they have undertaken a meaningful community engagement process – listened to and responded to the legitimate concerns of local residents.

"I have written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, on a number of separate occasions demanding that HS2 Ltd cease all enabling works until the Oakervee Review has been concluded and its findings published".

An HS2 Ltd spokesperson said: “No significant work has taken place on the site and none is planned in the near future.

"When significant works are planned we will, of course, inform the local community in advance.

"We are continuing to acquire land needed for construction, and in the short term, residents may notice some new fencing and other small changes.”