By Jaimielee Rendall: Residents living in Haywood and Colwich have insisted the HS2 high speed rail project will “devastate” their community.
The project was confirmed earlier this month by Transport Secretary Justine Greening and will link Birmingham to London, but phase two of the scheme plans to extend this up to Manchester and Leeds, meaning that the line will cut through Staffordshire.
Although a route for phase two has not been confirmed, it is expected to follow much of the remaining West Coast Main Line, which passes through the villages of Haywood and Colwich. This has led to fears that the community could be sandwiched in even further.
Rolfe Pearce, Labour chairman for Haywoods and Hixon, explained: “We’re calling it the Haywood Sandwich, because at the end of the day we have the A51 which is a major route between Lichfield and Stoke-on-Trent, and the West Coast Main Line.
“Here in the village we think it’s going to become unbearable with the amount of noise that is likely to be generated by a high speed train going at 225mph.
“We’re probably unique in the whole of the route in that we have the West Coast Main Line to the left of us, the A51 through the middle and then HS2 will be on the outside. Property prices are going to plummet, the noise pollution will be awful and people are just not going to want to live here.
“It’s going to devastate this small community.”
Concerns have also been raised about the nearby Pasturefields Saltmarsh, which is the last remaining inland saltmarsh in the British Isles and a special area of conservation. Rolfe believes these may be at risk.
“This will have to be avoided I’m sure,” he added. “But there’s no guarantee of that. There’s a strong possibility that we may lose some of the saltmarsh if they have to build a big platform for the train to go on.
“There’s obviously a lot of wildlife that use the marsh, and they will be frightened away by the high speed trains.”
Local people are also finding it hard to see the benefits of HS2. Little Haywood resident Lorraine Rushton, 55, said: “I think it’s a total waste of money and waste of time because we could upgrade the existing railways we have. Why waste billions on something we don’t need?
“Ordinary people aren’t going to be able to afford to travel on it anyway, so I don’t see any benefit whatsoever.”
Staffordshire County Council opted not to back HS2 during the consultation phase and Cllr Mike Maryon, cabinet member for highways and transport has said he will continue to support residents.
“We have made it clear to Government that we have not been convinced that the business case for HS2 stacks up, and that we could not support a scheme that we felt would not bring sufficient economic benefits to Staffordshire to outweigh the undoubted local environmental impacts,” he explained.
“But now the project has been approved we will work tirelessly with Government to ensure that the benefits for Staffordshire are maximised and the impacts minimised.
“This balanced and business focused realism and ambition is placing Staffordshire at the front of the pack for job creation and inward investment nationally.”
A decision about phase two is expected later this year – and Rolfe has vowed to keep campaigning to protect his community.
“Awareness is half the battle and when they do announce the plans we want to be ready to fight, so what we’re saying to Staffordshire is don’t just assume that this won’t affect you,” he said.
“There is a human angle on this and it’s not all about money. There are people who are going to have to live with this every single day of their lives.
“We’ve got to fight and we’ve got to fight hard.”