Warwickshire County Council Unanimously Oppose HS2

On Tuesday 14th December, Warwickshire County Council debated and unanimously voted to oppose HS2. The council also voted to recommend that the consultation be deferred until there is full information, that the council leader should write to the secretary of state and that the council should work with other councils and action groups.


Prior to the meeting, there was a vocal demonstration called by Stop HS2 on the steps of Shire Hall. The text below is a summary of arguments put by councillors. Apologies to Councillors who feel their contribution is cut unnecessarily short, this is due to the quality of the sound recording made on the day.


Proposing the motion Alan Cockburn, (Conservative, Kenilworth St John’s, Portfolio Holder Environment and Economy) said;

“The route was announced on 11th march … and nine months later, HS2 Ltd have still not given us adequate answers into how HS2 would affect the county, and I think that is pretty irresponsible.”


Proposing an amendment, John Whitehouse, (Liberal Democrat, Kenilworth Abbey, Chair Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee) said;

“I pay tribute to the action groups and they have provided a tremendous public service. I think it’s high time we came off the fence regarding HS2. It’s fair to say that the information we have had [from HS2 Ltd] for a long time has been non-existent or inadequate to say the least. The consultation will start soon and we haven’t got a lot of the answers and we now know a lot of the information won’t be available when the consultation starts. I’m afraid our Transport Secretary seems to dismiss the impact of HS2. He seems to think that many of us have been mislead by misinformation. Most of the action groups are not nimbies. In fact people have told me if they thought there was a business case for HS2, they would have taken the compensation and walked away, but they’ve read the proposals in detail and they don’t believe it and nor do I.”

 

Michael Doody, (Conservative, Cubbington) said;

“The station in Birmingham is at Curzon St. Being born and bred in Birmingham, I can say that’s about 20 minutes from the centre of Birmingham and it’s strange that that’s the amount of time you save by taking HS2! I believe that a train at lower speeds on existing links with improved infrastructure will give a better benefit for this country. There are no economic or environmental advantages in HS2. It is said to cost £35bn, I believe this is better spent on upgrading the current rail infrastructure.”


Phillip Morris-Jones, (Conservative, Fosse, Council Vice-Chair) said;

“It this goes ahead it’ll be the largest, most intrusive and most expensive project ever inflicted on this county. This is possible part of a grander EU strategy which sees high speed rail snake out into all parts of the new empire. Is the environmental disturbance justified? Can we afford it? Will it be used? I remember a few years ago when we debated the BNRR [M6 Toll], and now very few people use it. The M6 around Birmingham was the most congested piece of motorway in Europe. It was going to solve that problem. It didn’t. It is used very sparsely and the message here is that most people are not prepared to pay a small amount to shorten their journey times.”


Dave Shilton, (Conservative, Kenilworth Park Hill), who praised Graham Long for keeping councillors informed and also warned of the environmental impact caused by the expansion of Birmingham Airport and the extra traffic on the roads said;

“Why are we having one train from Coventry if this goes ahead when we are having all these new carriages? The business case is non-existent. It will destroy our area, it will destroy Coventry where our lot of our employment takes place. If we don’t spend this money on this madcap scheme, why not give it back to the councils which need it now?”


John Ross, (Conservative, Bulkington) said;

“I don’t have an axe to grind on this, because it doesn’t come through my patch, but that doesn’t mean that I’m for it. I’m absolutely amazed at this Coalition Government that has got so much to do to bring this country back from the abyss and they are going waste this amount of money on a barmy project. I can’t believe it. As has been already said, upgrade the present rail system. HS2 will only bring a benefit to a minority of the population. The country is too small for a high speed train, by the time it gets up to speed it’s going to have to put its brakes on.”


Ray Sweet, (Labour, Baddesley Ensor) said;

“We have to work together as we will be stronger. The one train we have to slow down is the present government.”

 

Joan Lea, (Conservative, Water Orton) said;

“Lurking in the back, Birmingham International wants to take everyone everywhere. In March 2010 the route was dumped on us and to have this done in a year does make me wonder how many corners have been cut. Philip Hammond is very excited by HS2, he is in love with the project, so he calls us Nimbies. Mr. Hammond needs to be aware that many people are concerned about this.”

 

Izzi Seccombe, (Conservative, Stour and the Vale) said;

“Why are we asking for a huge public investment when we have capacity on existing lines? We need to go out and seek a positive business alternative to put to Government. Chiltern Railways are currently investing their own money to straighten the line and on rolling stock. We should ask them and Virgin what they can do.”


Alan Farnell, (Conservative, Nuneaton Weddington, Leader of Council) said;

“My division is not affected, but we are talking about ‘our Warwickshire”. Our communities will be destroyed if this nonsense of an idea goes through. There is no economic benefit to it, there are plenty of alternatives. If we have the money we should be spending it on the west coast mainline. I am in a position now where I have to find £60m in the next few years. I’ve got to come up against 2,000 potential job losses, I’ve got to come up with service reductions across the board. I cannot justify £35bn for this nonsense of an idea and he Coalition Government should stop it.”


Tilly May, (Conservative, Polesworth) said;

“Recently I attended a presentation given to Civil Engineers in Nottingham. At the end when the consultants were arguing about where a station in Nottingham should go and one of the HS2 people said “We live in a very small country, the benefits of HSR in a small country are limited.” That is really the point. I did not realise that David Cameron was intending to create a runway the entire length of England. Virgin Trains already have plans to reduce the time from London to Birmingham International to 50 minutes. HS2 will reduce it to 38 minutes, so the saving will be just 12 minutes. So what are we prepared to pay environmentally for that 12 minutes? How much of England will be sacrificed for those 12 minutes and to whom are those 12 minutes so important? Central Government tell us that the decisions which we (local authorities) make should be evidence based. Yet we are being asked to go out to consultation on a project where almost none of the information we have asked for has been forthcoming or will be forthcoming. We need proper economic and environmental assessments to judge the project. Those of us who oppose the project have been categorised as nimbies. I just don’t want it out of my backyard, I don’t want to see communities 5 miles either side of me blighted instead, I don’t want this to project to go ahead. If you want to call me something, call me a NIOSC, not in our small country.”

 

Peter Fowler, (Conservative, Coleshill) said;

“Business leaders from the Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce remain unconvinced that HS2 will benefit the area. In fact now business leaders are concerned that businesses would move into London. I am surprised that the Environmental Impact Analysis and the Appraisal of Sustainability are not ready for the start of the consultation for the public to see. This isn’t nimbysim, we need an alternative.”


Barry Longden, (Labour, Arbury and Stockingford) said;

“When I first heard about this, I said I’d never heard such a stupid cockermaney idea in my life. The Transport Secretary recently said that the whole country becomes a travel to work area. Well someone should tell him that that doesn’t include Warwickshire, because the bloody thing doesn’t stop here.”


David Johnston, (Liberal Democrat, Wellesbourne) said;

“I am very grateful to the unity within the chamber to adopt these proposals.”


Bob Stevens, (Conservative, Feldon) said;

“Is there really a need to build a new line so we can go from London to Birmingham and beyond at 250mph? A fraction of the money for this new line would be needed to upgrade existing facilities. The remainder could be used on roads, schools, hospitals, community projects and all that would be neglected over the next four years as national debt is reduced. Indeed there is no economic justification to build justification to build this line, especially at a time of local government cuts. This unwanted line will cause mayhem to our rural and urban communities. There will be no benefit to any of these communities, either economic or environmental. Lessons from HS1 are not included in this plan. Last week I went to meet the Secretary of State with members from other councils along the route. Mr Hammond said that ‘HS2 will bridge the north-south divide, HS2 is in the national interests, HS2 will make northern regions more attractive.’ This one you will like ‘We in Middle England should take the burden on our infrastructure of economic gains elsewhere’ ‘We will only spend £750 in this parliament, by the time of the next parliament, public spending will be back in balance.’ He did not deny the suggestion that this would make Birmingham airport a satellite of London.”

 

Summing up the amendment John Whitehouse hoped the passing of the resolution would mean the £1,500 the Kenilworth Community Forum agreed to donate to the towns’ action group would now be paid and information would be displayed in libraries. He said;

“I believe by passing this resolution today, I believe we are sending a clear message to action groups. There is absolutely no question, we are with you.”


Any finally to sum up the whole thing, Alan Cockburn said;

“It’s nice to see such unanimous and unequivocal support for this motion. It’s clear no-one feels they have been railroaded into supporting this.”

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One comment to “Warwickshire County Council Unanimously Oppose HS2”
  1. Coun. Stevens should be aware that the National debt is still going up -by the amount of the budget deficit. The National Debt will top ONE TRILLION POUNDS early next year. This financial year’s interest payments on the debt is approximately £27 billion: next year a staggering £43 billion. I suppose the interest on an extra £33 billion won’t notice.

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