What’s good enough for Richmond… is good enough for Offchurch

This is a guest article by Madeleine Wahlberg.

Justine Greening has submitted her objections to the Thames Tunnel development which affects her constituents. She uses arguments to make her case which are STRANGELY FAMILIAR. We have seen her do the same with her arguments objecting to the extension of Heathrow airport.

Below are examples in the first column of what she thinks are brilliant and worthy arguments; and in the second column examples of what she thinks are ludicrous and nimby arguments. Isn’t there something rather two-faced about this? Don’t you think we should let her know that we have noticed – and that it is hard to respect her for it?

Quotes are all from a letter from Rt Hon Justine Greening MP to Thames Water 10th February 2012 responding to the Thames Tunnel Phase 2 Consultation.

An open letter to Justine Greening –

Justine, please will you answer the queries in column two, with reference to your statements in column one:


Column One: Justine Greening says … Column Two: Offchurch asks…
“we should be working to ensure the river is protected for residents today and future generations” … So why is it OK to decimate Offchurch parish by running HS2 trains at 350 – 400kph straight through the middle, operating 18 hours a day? I don’t think this is going to protect the area for residents today or in the future. Do you?
“[the residents’] main concerns have been to ensure that a project to protect and enhance the river environment does not cause other excessive damage to our environment, local community or quality of life” Funnily enough, Offchurch residents’ main concern is similarly to protect and enhance not only the river environment but also the woodlands. Why is it OK to save Richmond’s environment from excessive damage, but not save Offchurch’s? Why does Richmond’s community or quality of life matter but not Offchurch’s?
“my constituents feel the phase two proposals are a great improvement on the phase one proposals” Well that’s great – but Offchurch’s residents do not feel that the HS2 phase four proposals are a great improvement. In fact, you paid for the improvements elsewhere by making our area significantly worse. Thanks for nothing! Why were our concerns not listened to at all?
“I do not feel it is appropriate to use this Greenfield land [playing fields] for one of the tunnels main drive shaft sites. The loss of such valued community Greenfield amenity space … is completely unacceptable” Well nor does Offchurch  feel it is appropriate to lose 75% of its amenity areas: 50% of its footpaths; 2 out of 3 areas for public fishing; one third of its canal area; all 4 woodlands; let alone the amenity use of the 28% of houses and gardens that will be within 500m of the track. Why is the loss of this valued community Greenfield space totally unacceptable for Richmond, but totally acceptable for Offchurch?
“taking into consideration the serious detrimental impact such a site would have on the … playing fields, the neighbouring residents … and the Thames footpath” Why should you urge the contractor to take into consideration the serious detrimental impacts in Richmond, but urge HS2 Ltd to press on without knowledge of, let alone concern for the detrimental impacts in Offchurch? You are still consulting on the EIA yet we are under almost ‘blackmail’ threats to let surveyors onto our land – without either they or us yet knowing what they should be doing!
“how much local residents value the playing fields … and the river tow path, as well as the wildlife and natural environment … ‘It is a sanctuary that is free. It is home to the oldest Plane tree in London, wild flowers … it must be protected’” Why do you stress how much residents’ value their amenity areas and environment in Richmond yet tell us, your government, and the rest of the UK public that when we do the same, we are nimbys who should be ignored?  So Richmond has the oldest Plane tree in London – well we have the oldest AND the 4th oldest wild Pear trees in the UK … which you are going to tear down for HS2. Do you want us to respect you as a politician for this duplicity??

And about your stress on listening to the local residents, any chance you could listen to the overwhelming message of the 55,000 people who responded to the HS2 consultation?  I mean the big message, not the ‘massaging the data’ bit that you are doing at the moment.

“need to protect our Greenfield sites in London” Yes, and do you not think that we need to similarly protect our Greenfield sites in Offchurch?? Is our Greenfield different from yours just because it’s north of Watford?
“As a result of phase one consultation… the site has been reduced in size … no longer need to relocate the Scout Hut or divert the Thames path” Well sadly, after our consultation you have made the situation in Offchurch worse. Only in our case the impact involves more than a relocated Scout hut; and it involves a diversion of 50% of our footpaths, not just one as in Richmond.
“… a shorter … construction period which is an improvement, the site is still situated very close to residents… still significantly impact on nearby properties both physically and in terms of noise and light pollution” I am pleased that you are concerned with the impact of the construction phase on residents in Richmond – but have you given any concern for the impact, both physically and in terms of noise and light pollution on nearby properties in the rural, open area of Offchurch? If not, why not?
“key area of concern is the proposal to transport materials to and from the site via a temporary access road [causing] further loss of green space as well as increase the risk of vehicle accidents” Well, funnily enough we are also concerned about the proposals to transport materials onto and away from the site – which is of course in our case not a single site, but a continuous site right across the length of the parish. We are particularly concerned that diverting the whole of the Fosse Way down a narrow country lane will have a huge impact and risk vehicle accidents. Please tell me, as far as you are concerned, is a life threatened in Richmond different from a life threatened in Offchurch? You can be truthful with me.
“after the completion … proposals show the …shaft concealed within a habitat wall … concern that such a structure may encourage children to climb on the structure, especially if balls get caught inside” Actually we are rather concerned about risks from HS2 as well, but it concerns a little more than children losing their balls. Yes, the whole of the line will be fenced but will that be sufficient to stop vandalism as de-railing a high speed train will be pretty gruesome?
“above ground structures should be designed to blend into the open grass environment … ensure it will not detract from the natural openness” So how come you are concerned that the development should not detract from the general openness across Richmond, but in the case of Offchurch you think it is just great that you are going to build a fenced-in line (around the width of a football pitch if we include the ‘vegetation free zone’) right across the parish, including on embankments across half of it. What is it about the impact of that that you don’t understand? Let me be straight – do you think this will “detract from the natural openness” of a rural area or not? Do you know what a real rural area looks like? Or is Richmond your nearest approximation?
“support the proposal to move the site … to ensure the listed bridge and historic slipway are protected” I’m so glad that you show signs of concern for listed buildings and historic artefacts. Do you know how many of these HS2 will FAIL to protect?
“There is real concern over the number of traffic movements and the impact this will have on our local roads Well the traffic movements that Offchurch is concerned with are 18 trains an hour, in both directions, for 18 hours a day (and repair work on the lines for the remaining 6 hours), travelling at around 350kph – so not exactly silent. Tell me, how do you think that compares with your concern for traffic in Richmond – hours, speed, numbers?
“ a very historic site .. and any …above ground structures will have a huge impact on the feel and character … I would like to see the Victorian brickwork and rustic nature of this location preserved” Well bravo for being concerned with the rustic feel of Victorian brickwork! Tell me, have you any cool ideas for how we should try to reinstate the rustic feel of Offchurch after HS2?
“I am pleased [this feature has been] reassessed… the site has been … moved away from the historic park gates … and mature trees in the park. Additionally the height of the ventilation column has been reduced from a potential 10m to 6m” Here again, aren’t you lucky in Richmond! All that is threatened is a pair of gates; one ventilation column; and some mature trees. Umm – in Offchurch it will be a question of 8m wires (26 feet) above the track height; 4.7m high trains, assuming they don’t go to double-decker trains which I know you are thinking about; and as to mature trees – well HS2 will obliterate all 4 woodlands in Offchurch and take out our neighbouring ancient woodland in Cubbington. I know you’ve promised us some new trees – but do you know what the difference between ‘new’ and ‘mature’ trees is? About 200 years in our case.
“residents would like to ensure [the contractors] work extremely hard to protect trees .. and minimise the nuisance to park users and wildlife” Well let’s hope that you also insist that the contractors are as kindly towards us. I just don’t understand how your concern for wildlife in Richmond squares with the badger colony that you will destroy in Offchurch. And sorry to be thick, but do you know if wildlife can cross continuous trackside fencing that will be designed to keep out terrorists?
“I believe it is incredibly important to protect our green open spaces … and I am pleased [the contractor] … has worked to find an alternative brownfield site” Something to share!! Yes, I agree that protecting green open spaces (and all of the wildlife sites that your HS2 will destroy) is “incredibly important”. But if you are so pleased to have found an alternative in Richmond (and we couldn’t possibly call this nimbyism), could you give a little space to thinking why you are not interested in finding an alternative in Offchurch? Even just dropping the speed a bit would allow a few curves around the worst environmental destruction. But actually there are real alternatives too …
“we need to ensure [the projects] make sense for us locally and work within our existing environment” This sounds a sensible approach – but why only in Richmond? I’VE GOT IT. You think we are rural idiots, so what works for us locally in our existing environments is IDIOCY!
“It is vital that [the contractor] seriously considers the concerns I have outlined” Well, as it happens, we are thinking along the same vital lines – could you please seriously consider the concerns that we have outlined in Offchurch? Otherwise, the contractor in Richmond could reasonably think – ‘well judging by HS2, which will create FAR more destruction than plans in Richmond, Justine doesn’t really care about any of these things…  So I can safely ignore all of her comments – treat them like regular politician ‘blether’ perhaps’?


7 comments to “What’s good enough for Richmond… is good enough for Offchurch”
  1. Native Americans have a saying when dealing with the duplicitous….Justine Greening “speaks with forked tongue”.
    This applies to most politicians, and it is up to us to challenge them. Socrates said “If you don’t get involved in politics, you will end up being ruled by your inferiors”. So more strength to your elbow. Keep fighting and get your political representatives involved! As a last resort remind them you have a vote.
    Good luck

  2. It is good that this has been brought out into the open.
    However, I do not think that any of us, anti or pro HS2, should be surprised by the levels of hypocrisy demonstrated by Greening and most other MPs.
    Nor should we be surprised by the incompetence being shown on an almost daily basis by the various departments and companies involved with pushing this project through.
    If there were no hypocrisy or incompetence goodness knows we may be improving the extant systems as a cheaper viable option right now.

  3. So why is it OK to decimate Offchurch parish by running HS2 trains at 350 – 400kph straight through the middle, operating 18 hours a day?

    Nice attempt to conflate Offchurch Parish with the village centre Madeline; a somewhat misleading “sleight of hand” wording don’t you think?

    From my reading of HS2 route maps and looking on Google Earth & Street View, the trains aren’t passing through the middle of Offchurch village, as you rather dramatically imply, are they? The line passes approx 800m north-east of the village centre and what’s more, at the point of closest proximity to Offchurch village, the line is in cutting, further screening residents from noise intrusion?

    Agreed, there is one very nice house (labelled Valley Fields on Google Maps?) about 600m off Welsh Row in the Hunningham direction – now whoever lives there IS close to the new line and I have no doubt they will be fully justified in being horrified at finding their idyllic setting impacted adversely by HS2?

    • Madeleine replies:

      No conflation Peter.

      As I said, HS2 does run straight through the PARISH. Did you know that in rural areas we still have civil parishes? Perhaps your map doesn’t have parish boundaries?

      HS2 also divides 5 out of 8 farms in the parish; 6 parish rights of way will be cut; 12 businesses and 28% of the houses in the parish are within 500 meters. There is a cutting that will help with some noise screening, but about two-thirds of the track going through the parish will be on an embankment that Justine Greening made even higher at the last review. I could go on but I think I’ve made my point.

      The damage will be far worse than that in Richmond. Justine Greening is very concerned to protect the environment of her constituency for “today and future residents”, but apparently doesn’t care a sausage for the environment of Offchurch. Did I say ‘duplicity’???

      • Do me a favour Madeline and quit with the patronising tone

        I know exactly what a parish is – I live in a semi-rural area that is likely to see the new line running through it in just the same way as it will through Offchurch Parish.

        You’ve made your point alright, by deliberately applying selective parameters to distort the impression of impact upon your community. It might have been more transparent and informative to place a summary of the total number of dwellings in Offchurch Parish and then list just how far the new line is from these dwellings. Readers could then judge just how disruptive the line will be to them on an everyday basis

        Of course there is some impact upon Offchurch Parish but you attempt to (falsely) give the impression that the line is running right through the middle of the village, decimating (your word) more or less everybody’s lifestyle in the village – this is definitely NOT the case and you know it but it suits your particular agenda to propagate a mendacious interpretation of the potential impact.

      • it seems the man to target is george osborne he may have seen throgh the smoke screen holding back funds for this project

    • Oh really Peter, surely you are not complaining about “sleight of hand” wordings?

      As a supporter of HS2, you must be used to the use of sleight of hand wordings and analyses as well as the withholding of information and reports that do not conform to the pro-HS2 view?
      Those of us who are not supporters of this project have to put up with this sort of approach with ever increasing frequency.

      If Madeleine were dramatically implying something (I do not believe that she was) it would not matter one jot as Greening and her “teams” do not appear to be listening to any viewpoint other than theirs or people like you.

      Once again I am not surprised.

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