More than 300 people braved the poor weather to attend a public meeting organised by Lichfield Action Group (LAG) to discuss the proposed HS2 high speed rail line which will cut through the city.
The meeting took place at Boley Park Community Hall on Friday night (October 1) and saw an impressive turnout, with some people listening from the entrance hall to the presentation by LAG founder, Iain Sands.
Joining him were three local MPs – Michael Fabricant for Lichield, Tamworth’s Chris Pincher and MP for North Warwickshire Dan Byles. The audience also got to hear from Graham Long who formed one of the first campaign groups against the HS2 in Ladbroke.
Listen to the presentation here: [audio://lichfieldlive.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/hs2/Into_and_presentation.mp3]
Speech by Iain Sands: [audio://lichfieldlive.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/hs2/Iain_Sands_speech.mp3]
Following the presentation by Mr Sands, the area’s MP Mr Fabricant pleaded with Lichfield Action Group to consider alternative route proposals.
“I am begging the LAG, one of the things that we have got to do, not just in Lichfield but in Hints and also in Ladbroke and all the rest of it, we have got to come up with an alternative compromise route so that if the thing is going ahead we can speak with one voice.”
Revealing his passionate opposition to the plans he continued:
“Over my f-ing dead body! I will lie on that bloody route and the train can ride over me!”
Listen to Fabricant’s full speech here: [audio://lichfieldlive.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/hs2/Fabricant.mp3]
Listen to Chris Pincher’s speech here: [audio://lichfieldlive.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/hs2/Chris_Pincher.mp3]
Listen to Dan Byles’ speech here: [audio://lichfieldlive.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/hs2/Dan_Byles.mp3]
Echoing the calls was Mr Long who said that his own action group in Ladbroke had negotiated an alternative route but were still pressing ahead in the hope of stopping HS2 altogether.
“We’ve had two meetings with HS2, we’ve met with the secretary of state – this is a tiny little village in the middle of Warwickshire – we’ve got that viaduct completely removed, the track is now moved nearly half a mile away, the other side of a hill, the other side of a wood, we can’t see it.
“We’ll still hear it and noise is a big issue. But I just wanted to let you know, this is not a forlorn hope when it comes to moving. If we can achieve it as a tiny hamlet then a cathedral city should be able to move mountains, not just a viaduct.”
Listen to Mr Long’s full speech here: [audio://lichfieldlive.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/hs2/Graham_Long.mp3]
During the question and answer session that followed many points were raised and the question of whether to propose an alternative route in a “two-track” approach to the campaign featured highly with Mr Fabricant attempting to drive home his message. He added:
“We would be fools in my opinion to ignore the fact that it just might go ahead. It’s essential that we work out an alternative route, but doing so doesn’t mean we want that route or that we want HS2.
You can listen to the Q&A here: [audio://lichfieldlive.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/hs2/Q_A.mp3]
Speaking afterwards to The Lichfield Blog, the city’s MP said:
“The number of people that turned up shows there’s a lot of people concerned but what worries me is that many of them were people who actually live alongside the route and many many more people than that will be affected.
“I think there’s still a certain amount of apathy in Lichfield and other parts of the county if they’re not actually within a few yards of the route but many more than that will be affected.
“What the LAG haven’t addressed is what do they do if they fail to stop the HS2? Because if you don’t get in an alternative route, a better route, while the enquiry is on in the first six months of 2011, they’ve blown it. And there will be no time to go back with a better route after that.”
Listen to the full interview: [audio://lichfieldlive.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/hs2/Fabricant_Interview.mp3]
Reflecting on the meeting, Mr Sands explained:
“I’ve been flabbergasted by it to be honest because I thought that if I could get 50 to 100 people turning up would be good, but to have 300 to 400 people turn up just shows that there’s a lot of strength of feeling out there against this HS2 route.”
And despite pleas to look at alternative routes, Mr Sands confirmed that LAG is intent on getting the route stopped. He explained:
“I think the next stage of what Lichfield Action Group is going to do hasn’t been decided yet, but we will focus on getting this [stopped]. I think what we need to do really is get SNoW [Staffordshire North of Warwickshire Against HS2] bigger. We need to liaise with the national alliance and really get that whole co-ordination going nationwide.”
Listen to the full interview here: [audio://lichfieldlive.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/hs2/Sands_Interview.mp3]
Photos from the meeting