One of the narrowest green belts in the country, the 550 metre ‘Crackley Gap’ between Kenilworth and Coventry will be dug up in its entirety during the construction of HS2, campaigners have learned. Action group representatives were informed of the impact of construction of HS2 at a private meeting with HS2 Ltd last week, and the plans are due to be presented to the Kenilworth area Community Forum tonight.
While some of the land will not be required post-construction, during the construction period, the western side (University of Warwick/Crackley Woods side) of the A429 will be dug up, from the last house in Kenilworth to the first house in Coventry. The land which will be subject to disturbance is an estimated size equivalent to 50 football pitches, almost four times the amount of land which was presented as to be ‘safeguarded’ for construction purposes in the consultation which closed less than two weeks ago on January 31st.
In meetings which have been replicated along the entire of Stage 1 of the proposed rail line, representatives of The Kenilworth Stop HS2 Action Group, The Crackley Residents Association and Kenilworth Town Council have been having bilateral meetings with HS2 Ltd engineers for eight months. These bilaterals have been for local residents to point out to HS2 Ltd errors and constraints in their proposals, and propose possible mitigations to the plans.
The main thing which had been spotted by the residents of Kenilworth, but not the highly-paid engineers from HS2 Ltd, was the fact that the previous proposal for the Crackley Gap involved crossing Canley Brook (which for over two years HS2 Ltd had insisted was called Crackley Brook) at water level. HS2 Ltd have now accepted that the idea of a 225mph train going through a ford might sound spectacular, but was hardly a practical idea. Despite mitigation proposals from residents suggesting that the only sensible option was to tunnel, as the HS2 track could not be raised due to the constraint of having to go under a nearby railway, engineers have decided to move the brook instead, meaning earthworks will border onto the last property in the town, massively increasing the construction impact, and destroying a planned ‘Jubilee Wood’ extension to nearby Crackley Woods on land owned by the University of Warwick. On the Coventry side, engineers believed the construction imprint shown on maps all the way to the first house in the city was necessary to move a high-pressure pipeline, but weren’t certain this was the reason. Besides HS2 itself, an electricity transformer and pumping station will also be placed in the Crackley gap at its narrowest point.
On Dalehouse Lane, another road out of Kenilworth, HS2 Ltd have adjusted their plans to raise a bridge crossing the River Finham by two and a half metres after residents pointed out that their projections for the maximum 1000-year flood level was lower than actual flood levels experienced in 1998, and not far off where they were just this weekend. The road will also be closed for up to a year.
Nearby villages of Burton Green and Stoneleigh will have spoil heaps to contend with, with the later also getting a workers compound in a field near the A46, currently used for agricultural shows.
Nick Hillard, Secretary of the Crackley Residents Association said;
“The whole area, one of the thinnest green belts in the country is going to have to be dug up. After five to eight years of construction we will be left with a sterile eyesore and it will take up to 30 years for the little which is left to get back to be in keeping with the landscape. We have expressed our concerns about Canley Brook for two years, but after eight months of dialogue, none of our suggestions have been included. This highlights the potentially catastrophic unforseen consequences of HS2, which have formed no part of any public consultation to date. This situation will undoubtedly be replicated up and down the line as more detailed information becomes available to the HS2 engineers”
Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 Campaign Manager said,
“We didn’t expect much going into the process and we’ve ended up with less than that. We have done HS2 Ltds work for them, pointing out the massive errors in the plans and suggesting mitigation. They have accepted the errors and ignored the mitigation. What they have done is make the whole thing a lot worse, because that is the cheapest option.”
“This is a precautionary tale to anyone now just finding out about HS2 after the release of the Y-Route. Three years ago, HS2 Ltd presented us with maps which showed this tiny little railway line, designed by someone sat at a desk in London who had never seen the area. Then you find that it is 21 metres fence to fence, about as wide as six lanes of road. Then you find there is proposed clearance of 25 metres each side – more on embankments and cuttings – and you are looking at something wider than the pitch at Wembley. Then you are told the construction zone will be 100 metres. Finally, three years down the line, you get told the truth in that they plan to dig up your entire green belt, your entire wildlife corridor, and it’s over a third of a mile wide.”