It is still not too late to oppose HS2
Dear Sir, — Jane Smith’s letter on HS2 was an impressive wake-up call to anyone concerned about losses of irreplaceable natural habitat, the lamentable state of national and local transport and the folly of writing what amount to blank cheques for infrastructure projects for the benefit of large development corporations.
HS2 will cause irreparable damage to biodiversity. Not only are ancient woodlands, mosses and meres unique in terms of their value as wildlife ecosystems but each mature native tree that is felled is home to hundreds of species of insects, birds and mammals, an ecosystem in its own right.
Nothing can compensate either the unfortunate residents whose properties are in the path or close to the HS2 route and whose peace, views and properties will be blighted by it.
The costs of HS2 may not all be calculable in terms of pounds and pence but they are at least known while any supposed benefits are not. Its proponents have argued that it will create jobs and bring prosperity to the north of England by reducing travel times to London. I beg to differ. Reduced commuting times will have the opposite effect given the high cost of living and house prices in London and the Home Counties. More and more people will choose to buy property in the Midlands and North while working in London. There will be an increase in the brain and resource drain from the North to London rather than an increase in the development of local businesses and employment. No wealth will trickle up north of Watford. We have nothing to gain and everything to lose.
Even the Alsager Neighbourhood Plan acknowledges that HS2 would increase pressure on available housing stock, which will increase house prices locally, putting them ever further out of the reach of young families and increasing the pressure to build more houses when services and schools are already stretched to breaking point, as evidenced by the editorial last week.
There won’t just be more houses but also more traffic congestion including through traffic to and from Crewe. More air pollution, noise and disruption.
Small towns are friendlier, work as communities, have a distinctive character and are comparatively peaceful, safe and clean. All this is lost when they are forced to expand beyond a certain point. They lose their cohesion and when people live in a bland impersonal conurbation their sense of community declines and they are less likely to participate and to help their neighbours. In a city nobody knows their neighbours and nobody cares.
The cost of HS2 has already been revised upwards several times and the chances of this continuing is high. The billions that this small section of our rail network is going to cost could indeed be better spent on our overcrowded and poorly maintained railways and local bus services which are virtually non-existent in most rural areas including Alsager. We want to be able to keep in touch with our neighbouring towns and villages and to enjoy good transport links to Crewe, Stoke and Congleton. Most of us only visit London or Manchester infrequently in part due to the exorbitant cost. Many older residents such as my neighbours are no longer able to drive and rely on public transport to access banks, shops, post offices, council facilities and social activities. They find themselves increasingly isolated, impairing their ability to remain independent in their own homes and making them more vulnerable to depression, dementia, poor mobility and declining physical health. This also has knock on effects on the viability of local businesses and social activities such as Senior Citizens.
It is not too late to oppose HS2. I exhort everyone to find out all you can about the project and to write to your MP and councillors, join pressure groups like the Woodland Trust and attend future protests. Runways and roads have been successfully thwarted in the past by the strength of public opposition and this white elephant must be, too, if you want to ensure the future prosperity of your community and natural environment. — Yours faithfully,