This week our constituency Member of Parliament, Jon Trickett, has attended the debate on HS2 in Parliament and has promised to raise the issue with Ministers privately. During the consultation phase i campaigned hard against the route through South Kirkby, not because of a “not in my backyard” philosophy but because the suggested route will blight our landscape, affect the homes and living conditions of some and will damage South Kirkby Camp, a nationally important scheduled monument. I also question the decision to go ahead with HS2 whilst our own local rail structure relies on the infamous Pacer trains on a non-electrified line between Sheffield and Leeds/York.
During my campaign Historic England agreed with me that the potential impact on South Kirkby Camp was something that they shared my concerns with but (for one reason or another) i was not able to get the support of Jon Trickett for my concerns at the time of the consultation period, so whilst i now welcome his involvement in highlighting the cause i must continue my campaign with the support of the Yorkshire Party. With this in mind i have taken the time to this week formally request that Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport and Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Media Culture and Sport meet with myself, representatives from the Yorkshire Party, the local media and (most importantly) local residents at South Kirkby Camp. It is one thing to sit in an office at the Houses of Parliament and make a decision that will negatively affect people and the landscape and it is a different beast entirely to come to our great county and look residents of South Kirkby in the eye whilst walking across our landscape and dictate to us what is best for us. I have also extended the invitation to Paul Maynard MP, who is the Minister responsible for HS2. The invitation in full is below:
Dear Secretary of State for Transport,
I am writing to you to formally request your attendance to the site of South Kirkby Camp, in South Kirkby, West Yorkshire. This week the constituency Member of Parliament for Hemsworth, Jon Trickett, has attended the HS2 debate and has promised to raise concerns, i have made aware to him, that the proposed route of HS2 will pass close by or possibly through South Kirkby Camp, a scheduled monument. Historic England guidance states that “a scheduled monument is an historic building or site that is included in the Schedule of Monuments kept by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The regime is set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.” Historic England themselves control the scheduling or de-scheduling of monuments, on behalf of the Secretary of State, and scheduled monuments such as South Kirkby Camp are “…by definition, considered to be of national importance.” Furthermore, Historic England guidance states that “any works to it, and flooding and tipping operations that might affect it, with few exceptions require scheduled monument consent from the Secretary of State, (not the local planning authority).”
In November 2016 discussions between myself and Cllr Michelle Collins of South Kirkby and Moorthorpe Town Council led Cllr Collins to state that “the site belongs to the Town Council who will make representations” and she went on to state that the District Council had voted against the route, which had been debated in the chamber. I asked who from an archaeological or historical background had been invited to any consultation events, debates or meetings as neither myself nor Historic England knew of any such people employed by or consulted by either the District Council or Town Council. Sadly no answer was forthcoming on this.
The fact that South Kirkby Camp was already on the Historic England ‘at risk’ register prior to any route being announced quite clearly is evidence that at District and local level neither council fundamentally recognise or care about the national and local importance of the monument. This leaves open to question the legitimacy of any argument against the route through the area by either Wakefield Metropolitan District Council and South Kirkby and Moorthorpe Town Council, especially when one of those two bodies also claims ownership of the site on which the monument sits. I would go further and state categorically that i believe there to have been a fundamental conflict of interest here.
In January 2017 Historic England stated to myself that they “noted the potential impact on South Kirkby Camp and the fact that it is difficult to tell from the scheme drawings exactly what the physical impact would be. The train line appears to be in a cutting as it passes closest to the scheduled monument but we are unsure whether this would involve further landtake in order to actually construct the line. This is something we are going to request clarification on. There could also be an impact on the setting of the camp and on people’s ability to appreciate and enjoy it.”
Naturally during this long consultation phase i campaigned hard against this potentially damaging route and raised these concerns prior to formally submitting an opposition to the route with these concerns in mind. Despite quite clear evidence that HS2 are acting beyond their remit in damaging a scheduled monument without the consent of Historic England or the Secretary of State and the further evidence to suggest that the District and Town councils have either not recognised the true importance of the site and the monuments’ scheduled status the route appears to be going ahead. With this in mind i am formally requesting that you meet with myself, in your role as Secretary of State for Transport, at South Kirkby Camp, to discuss this abhorrent decision whilst seeing the monument first hand.
I will also formally request that the Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport also attends the meeting and as such request that you arrange between yourselves the best time for such a visit to take place. Should you agree to meet with me i shall also be inviting representation from the Yorkshire Party, the local press and local residents. Please respond to my initiation in good time.