A while ago i wrote to Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport, to invite him to meet with myself, members of the Yorkshire Party and most importantly other residents of South Kirkby who are concerned about the negative effects that HS2 will cause on our landscape. Since then Chris Grayling has been in the North for the Conservative Party conference, providing the perfect opportunity for him to attend the meeting. Naturally, as the Conservatives tend to do, Chris Grayling ignored the invitation, he didn’t even have the courtesy to arrange for one of his staff to send a simple letter to decline the invitation. But then again we have grown accustomed to being ignored by the Conservatives here in Yorkshire.
I extended the invitation to Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who did at least arrange for a reply to be sent. In the reply, as well as declining the invitation, Karen Bradley makes two key points regarding the proposed route of HS2 through the scheduled monument known as South Kirkby Camp. Firstly, the route is not yet finalised. The route which was announced last year to the public and the route which we all were consulted on (can you sense sarcasm here?) by HS2 is yet subject to change. Naturally this leaves us in a difficult situation, how are we supposed to prepare for potential upheaval or campaign to preserve green areas, properties and local heritage assets such as South Kirkby Camp if the route may change? I contacted Historic England for clarification on this, who agreed that we have no choice but to wait until the Environmental Impact Assessments take place to get a proper idea of the damage to be done in South Kirkby by HS2. This is not good enough, in my opinion. Secondly, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has laid down the Government position clearly by stating that the current laws in place to protect our heritage assets will be superseded by a new ‘hybrid’ Bill, an Act of Parliament which will allow the Government to buy and build on land, including scheduled monuments. It has to be questioned why the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport supports a Government policy which allows for the destruction of the very culture which she is in place to protect.
Neil Redfern, Principle Inspector of Ancient Monuments (Historic England) responded by saying; “For HS2 Phase 2b a preferred route has been published but it has not been finalised. It runs close to but not within the monument at South Kirkby Camp and we [Historic England] have set out our concerns to HS2 and will be engaging further as the detailed environmental work progresses.” He also said; “We will continue to set out the heritage issues but ultimately the decision will be a matter for Parliament to decide on.”
So, ultimately, the consultation by HS2 was lip-service, we cannot properly prepare for or campaign against the route and it’s destruction and the office of Government which is there to protect our heritage has made it clear it is more than happy to destroy our heritage here in Yorkshire to progress a white elephant of a train line that benefits nobody but London.