HS2: Amersham protests grow
PUBLISHED: 14:43 16 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:01 20 February 2013
The campaign against HS2 - the government plan to run a high speed rail link between London and Manchester- is building.
Walk around Amersham and you get the impression of a relaxed and complacent town. Old Amershams well-to-do residents live in Georgian mansions or charming centuries-old cottages that were once the homes of peasants and traders, now the reward for a successful career. But beneath the affable exterior lies a steely spirit. Amersham has long had the reputation for knowing what it wants, and going for it.
Most famous of those who refused to go with the flow of the authorities were the Lollard dissenters. Determined to pursue their principles of religious liberty, they were willing to die for them. And in 1521, seven of them were burned at the stake on a hillside just behind Old Amersham High Street, where a memorial still stands today.
During the Civil War, with polarised views dividing the country, Oliver Cromwells family lived nearby at Woodrow High House. Another period of persecution of minorities arose when prominent Quakers settled here in the 17th century.
A further call to arms came when the new-fangled railway first set its sights on this valley. Landowners objected notably the Lords of the Manor, the Tyrwhitt Drakes, who did not want the railway to ruin the view across the River Misbourne from their home Shardeloes. They had their way, and the railway was finally built a mile to the north. The new town was created for London commuters at Amersham-on-the-Hill station, while Old Amersham remained a tranquil, unspoilt market town.
Now theres a fresh battle. When the Government announced plans last March to build High Speed Rail Link 2 (HS2), Amersham was one of the first towns to get organised for a fight. With strong views being expressed throughout Britain, for and against, Amersham residents voices remain among the most vociferous.
Its hardly surprising. The governments favoured route for the new high-speed London to Birmingham line passes right through the Chilterns. It will link London to Birmingham, with 400m-long trains carrying up to 1,100 passengers travelling at speeds up to 250mph. It could open in 2025, at an estimated infrastructure cost of 17 billion.
Protests throughout 2010 led to some amendments to the route, which were published in December and which are now open to a five-month public consultation.
Call to action
The Amersham Action Group is one of more than 60 groups up and down the proposed line who are opposing the project, linked with the two national groups, HS2 Action Alliance and Stop HS2.
Local views are summed up by Steve Rodrick, Chief Officer of the Chiltern Conservation Board: There is simply no case for High Speed 2, especially through a nationally-protected landscape loved by millions. It would bulldoze through fields, woods and properties in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, destroying hedgerows, woodlands and ancient country lanes.
The case in favour of HS2 is strongly championed by others, whose views are represented by Greengauge 21. This campaign organisation views the line as a national economic priority, which will cut journey times, boost economic competitiveness and shrink the north-south divide, providing a sustainable way to ensure that congestion across the national transport system does not impede economic recovery.
As the HS2 consultation process began last month, both sides are gearing up for a fresh fight. Nigel Shepherd of Amersham Action Group promised: We will make sure that locally this is one consultation that everyone will know about and that the true facts about the line and its impact on our community are discussed fully.