Villagers near Shropshire/Staffordshire border ‘suffered because of HS2 and should be compensated’
Residents will be ‘relieved’ to hear the line from Birmingham to Manchester has been axed, a parish council chairman has said.
Residents in a Staffordshire village near the Shropshire border, where HS2 bought up family homes to make way for the line to Manchester, have “suffered immensely” and will be “relieved” to hear it has been cancelled – but now they must be compensated, a local councillor has said.
Councillor Jamie Stephenson, the chairman of Madeley Parish Council, near Stoke-on-Trent, said the controversial rail project has already had a “major impact” on the villages of Madeley, Whitmore and others nearby despite still being in the early stages of work, with farmers “turfed out” of their land and family homes emptied.
Speaking after an announcement by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that the project from Birmingham to Manchester would be axed, Councillor Stephenson said the decision should have been made years ago to save residents from stress and heartache.
He said: “We have had loads of farmers who have had their land compulsory purchased, some of them have been left completely heartbroken because these farms were their whole lives, some were born there and grew up there and they have been taken away from them and they don’t really understand why.
“A lot of it has been for early environmental works, which, from what we can see, is planting small trees and carving up the fields.
“It has been really unclear what the actual purpose of that is, other than to try and diminish the environmental impact of HS2, while they are ripping up ancient woodland in the process. It has been very strange process.
“To be frank, the biggest problems were probably yet to come with the construction work itself so I think we have been lucky that those main construction works haven’t actually started.
“In the rest of the country we have seen huge works for very little benefit, from what we can tell.”
Councillor Stephenson said “95 per cent” of people in the area were against the project, but those who have had their homes purchased by HS2 will be “shocked and appalled” to hear it has now been cancelled.
He added that the situation has left an “absolute mess” to sort out and said villagers need to be compensated.
He said: “People have bought houses thinking they will be there forever and they have been turfed out.
“That has to be looked at now – how does that redress happen?
“This area has suffered immensely – even though it is not going ahead, people have lost land, farmers have lost land, land has been carved up – how will they be compensated? And how will the area be compensated for the hassle and the issues over the past 10 years?
“It is the right decision (to cancel) but it’s a decision that should have been made years ago.
“Why have we been through all these years of hassle? It has been 10 years now that it has been discussed and fought about, all seemingly for nothing.
“How do we get people back? That will be the fight.
“There are farmers who have been chucked out but the land is still there, so what happens to them? It’s going to be an absolute mess to sort out.”
Paul Walters, who spoke to the PA news agency in the leafy Heath Road in Whitmore, where a number of mansions have been bought out by HS2 so a tunnel could be bored underneath them, said it was “fabulous news” that the area would no longer be “blighted” by the rail project.
Mr Walters, who has lived in the village of Baldwin's Gate for seven years, said some of the empty homes in Heath Road, which are padlocked with signs warning they are under CCTV surveillance, had previously been taken over by squatters.
He said: “These are beautiful houses, it’s probably one of the nicest areas in all of Staffordshire.
“They are super-nice houses that have been in families for generations and they’ve lost these houses now. It’s really sad, but I’m glad it’s not going to be happening.
“One of these houses had squatters in for months, but they are gone now. They are amazing houses and now they are just stood empty, with security going around to make sure no one is breaking in.
“A friend of mine, five years ago he was chucked out of his house. I think they got good money for these houses, but that’s not the point.
“These were people’s homes, especially when they’ve been in the family for years.”
Mr Walters said his main concern about the HS2 project was the effect it would have on traffic.
He said: “I was told there were going to be 500 wagons a day passing through the village so I’m really pleased it’s not going to happen. You can imagine the disruption and it’s already started, where they’ve been doing the early works.
“The traffic lights, you get stuck in the village for 20 minutes every day. Imagine what 500 HGVs a day would do, it’s already a crazy busy road.
“And I’m worried about the wildlife, there are so many deer around here and where are they going to go?”
The resident said he believed no-one living in the area would have benefitted from HS2.
He said: “HS2 wasn’t going to make a difference to Stoke-on-Trent anyway, it’s not like we were going to be reaping the benefits and be able to jump on a train to London.
“All it was was negativity and upheaval for the people living here.”Councillor Stephenson said it was time for the government to admit HS2 was a “terrible idea”.
He said: “It has been apparent, certainly since the pandemic, that the nature of travel has changed, certainly the nature of travel for work has changed, and it changed the ballpark.
“I personally would have argued it was a terrible idea from the outset, but from 2020 onwards it was clear that things should have been reviewed and a lot of money saved.
“People just want a government that tells them the truth. They should just come out and say it was a bad idea – that’s what people want, a bit of honesty.”