Up to a decade of heavy traffic and dust pollution will be the result of the greenfield construction around Balsall Common of the multi billion pounds London-Birmingham High Speed Rail link HS2. Because of the planned viaduct instead of a tunnel, HS2 could make the village a less desirable place to live and may alter its character forever.
These are just some of the “highlights” outlined in the official draft impact report from the HS2 ltd published in May and the subsequent response by the Heart of England High Speed Rail Action group. A tunnel is not seen as viable despite the efforts of local campaigners and Conservative MP for Meriden Caroline Spelman, whose constituency office was once on Kenilworth Road.
Replying to BalsallCom.Com acknowledging these disastrous consequences, she says:
“I continue to push hard for a tunnel in the Balsall/ Berkswell area. As soon as the draft environmental statement was published ruling out a tunnel on cost and groundwater I met with representatives of HS2 ltd and asked them to reconsider this because of the intrusive nature of the elevated section of track so close to habitation. I am also pressing for mitigation in respect of the construction sites proposed in the same statement. I continue to help constituents with claims for compensation and anyone needing this is welcome to contact me. I volunteered for the paving bill in order to be able to bring in amendments to improve the terms of compensation and will introduce new clauses at the report stage of the bill. I have also secured a private members bill to improve compensation for blight arising from national infrastructure which will be read on 18th Oct. I attend the community forum meetings as long as they don’t clash with sittings in Parliament when I am required to be there.”
The analyses in the reports reveal noise pollution impact in the village during decade long construction from 2017 until the line is operational in 2026. Expect at least a 30% increase in HGV traffic leading to longer commute times and vibrations, noise, dust and filth, and road closures.
The report describes the dramatic increase of HGV traffic along leafy Kelsey Lane, compounded by a main construction and migrant worker accommodation site planned in nearby Park Lane, which will raise traffic and, worryingly, policing. The areas Wootton Green, Carol Green and Hall Meadow Road / Beverley Close are singled out as being particularly affected by construction noise. Once the construction decade has passed, residents of Balsall Common and Berkswell in the 2020s and beyond will experience a permanent increase in noise and vibration for houses in the north and north east of the village; residents of Wootton hill and Riddings Hill will suffer.
The national benefits of HS2 regarding economic growth are well documented if somewhat up for debate. But as things stand, on reading the reports it is difficult to argue against Balsall Common being a relative loser.
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Article by Neil C.