Banburyshire MP 'ashamed' over treatment of South Northamptonshire villagers blighted by HS2

'We were promised no expense would be spared to ensure communities and countryside were looked after, how wrong that proved to be,' says Andrea Leadsom

By Kevin Nicholls
Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 4:12 pm

South Northamptonshire's MP says she is "ashamed" of how locals blighted by the HS2 project have been treated.

Dame Andrea Leadsom told a Commons debate: "We were all promised that no expense would be spared to ensure that our communities and countryside were looked after.

"Well, how wrong that proved to be."

Campaigners in South Northants are still fighting HS2

The former Conservative minister cited cases of some constituents who have battled for four years to get what was agreed after swathes of properties were hit with compulsory purchase orders to make way for new tracks and others facing by the prospect of years of building work on their doorstep.

During debate on a public petition signed by 150,000 people demanding a re-think on whether the scheme should go ahead, Dame Andrea said: "The paving legislation received Royal Assent in November 2013, effectively giving HS2 a blank cheque.

"I was one of the 38 Members who voted against it.

"At the time, we were all promised that no expense would be spared to ensure that our communities and countryside were looked after. Well, how wrong that proved to be.

Dame Andrea Leadsom

"The toll on lives and livelihoods has been massive. Andy, Ben, Murray and Anne in Radstone have had to battle for years to get HS2 to confirm what was agreed in writing: a proper sound barrier to protect their village and a lowering of the line.

"Five years later these issues are still outstanding.

"Pauline and Doug’s successful holiday business was shut down by HS2 taking their land. Four years later, they are still awaiting compensation. They are stuck in their old home and have no income.

"The beautiful village of Chipping Warden is now surrounded by construction materials that HS2 has just dumped in this lovely countryside.

"For me as an MP, dealing with what can only be described as the appalling treatment of my constituents by HS2 has taken on average 25 per cent of my time since 2010. And it has caused real mental health issues for hundreds of local people.

"I will just say it straight: HS2 is an appalling waste of money and I am ashamed of the way that it is being implemented. We need a fresh vote."

Work started last year on phase one of the route between London and Birmingham cuts through 13 miles of Northamptonshire countryside just north of Brackley close to a number of villages including Westbury, Radstone, Sulgrave, Chipping Warden, Upper Boddington, Culworth, Whitfield and Greatworth.

Phase One is due to open sometime between 2029 and 2033 with a new route linking London to the West Midlands.

Many areas have also benefitted from community projects funded by HS2.

But overall costs have spiralled with reports claiming the total is now at least £107.7billion — up from from £32.7bn in 2012 and a £1.7bn increase in the past year thanks to Covid-19 pandemic.

Supporters say HS2 will free up more space for commuter and freight services on existing tracks, helping to relieve overcrowding and take lorries off the road; open up new links to the Midlands bringing extra investment, and become a low-carbon option for long distance travel.