Watch as anti-HS2 protesters arrive in London in passionate protest after 125-mile ‘Rebel Trail’ – MyLondon
Two contrasting things are happening this week which show just how HS2 is dividing opinions the UK.
A group of anti-HS2 protesters are nearing the end of a 125-mile march along the route of the controversial rail network from Birmingham to West London.
The Extinction Rebellion-organised protesters are aiming to highlight the environmental damage they believe the high speed rail link will cause as it cuts a swathe across rural England.
You can watch a live video of the protesters entering London today (June 27) right here
Yesterday the protesters arrived in London and staged a protest outside the Old Oak Common construction site at what will be the huge London terminus for the rail link.
But at the same time, Hillingdon Council has just approved construction works which will involve 50 lorry movements a day in the Colne Valley, an area of natural beauty in London’s Green Belt which HS2 is set to plough straight through.
It’s a slice of green belt which provides many Londoners an invaluable escape from the city.
Needless to say, the campaigners are not happy about it, but HS2 is issuing them with stark warnings not to get in the way of construction traffic which could put them in danger.
It’s a stark moment in one of the defining environmental battles of our era.
Rob Callender, who organised the “Rebel Trail” walk and currently lives near Denham Country Park in the Colne Valley, said people from across the country have joined the march ranging from 11 years old to 83.
On work in the Colne Valley, he said: “This is my home, I love it and Covid-19 gave me another chance to rediscover it [Denham Country Park] because this is where I walk everyday.
“It’s pretty upsetting but they [HS2} kept working hard when lockdown was happening…there’s still a chance we can stop it.”
Environmental campaigners rest on the canal towpath before moving on to protest outside the site of the “Old Oak Common” HS2 site on June 26. Over the past week, Extinction Rebellion activists have marched along the planned HS2 route from Birmingham to London to protest against the construction of the controversial line
Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said: “Right from the start, HS2 has been a railway fuelled by lies, with grandiose and impossible promises made by those who will profit it. The already fragile case for this white elephant has been destroyed by the changes to work that coronavirus has brought, but instead of facing these facts, Boris Johnson chose to sneak out Notice to Proceed for HS2 just as it was confirmed that Parliament was lied to by HS2 bosses who are desperate to keep their gravy train running at a time when millions are facing life on the dole.”
Elizabeth Cairns, Extinction Rebellion member and Stopping HS2 Chilterns cofounder, said: “The Government did not ask the public if they wanted HS2. Instead of “levelling up” the country, this train will heighten existing levels of inequality and drag more economic activity to London.
“Globally we are living through the sixth mass extinction. Nationally we are approaching a recession unseen in scale since the 1920s. HS2 will not only adversely affect communities along the route, it will also contribute to the global climate crisis and taxpayers will be left to foot the bill for this destruction.
“Why are we still going ahead with this train line that no-one wants? It’s madness.”
Earlier this week a High Court case granted HS2 injunctions over areas to prevent protesters entering the land where HS2 works are going ahead.
Anti-HS2 protesters have accused the company of “silencing peaceful protest”, but it is understood HS2 claims it was for the safety of workers and the general public.
A separate injunction hearing is also being pursued by Hillingdon Council.
The plan for 50 lorry movements a day in relation to HS2 works in the Colne Valley was approved by councillors – some said “with a heavy heart”.
The HS2 major applications sub-committee unanimously gave the green light for the rail project’s heavy goods vehicles to get to and from its worksites – one adjacent to Skip Lane and the other at Lower Lodge, both off Harvil Road in Harefield, Uxbridge.
This is for the changes needed to modify National Grid’s overhead power line in the area, including the removal and replacement of pylons, rewiring and earthing works.
Councillors had previously deferred the decision in a meeting on May 20 demanding more information from HS2, due to highway safety concerns over queuing of lorries on Harvil Road and turning right into incoming traffic.
Following further guidance being given to the committee on how the company would mitigate these concerns, councillors approved the move subject to conditions such as HS2 making sure signage is put up north and south of the access road, to monitor the use of turning, and that no queuing of traffic should take place on Harvil Road.
The report also added the peak period of activity would be a “relatively short” time period.
Advising the committee, borough solicitor Rajesh Alagh said: “It’s my view that if members agree the recommendations in the report, this would achieve a satisfactory balance between allowing the necessary HS2 works to take place whilst at the same time protecting the integrity of the borough’s roads.”
The report explains that the plans come under the HS2 Act’s Schedule 17 planning submission which means the role of Hillingdon Council is “heavily restricted” in what can or cannot make up a decision.
Cllr John Morgan said: “I still have issues with the HGVs turning right to leave the site onto Harvil Road, especially when we have queues at the moment coming from New Years Green lane to access the civic amenity site…
“That’s the only issue I actually have with this, and it would be nice to try and get some comfort we’re not going to cause further heartache for our residents in this area.”
The rebels are arriving in central London today (June 27)
Cllr Edward Lavery added: “If we don’t approve this we are going to be in an appeal situation with HS2 again, they have provided us with information on how they will control the junction…
“I don’t think we have got any further scope to raise further queries, accepting in an ideal world we would not want to put 50 more vehicles down the Harvil Road but that is the access and we can’t change that.”
An HS2 spokesperson said: “We welcome Hillingdon Council’s decision on the National Grid pylon site application. As they note in the decision, peak lorry movements will be relatively light and spread over a relatively short period of time.
“Safety is our number one priority and we will continue our discussions with the local highways authorities on managing lorry movements and seek to reduce disruption for residents where we can. We would also urge people protesting in the Harvil Road area to stop attempting to block vehicle access as their actions are dangerous for themselves, our workers and local road users.”
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