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Chilterns 'funeral' held at HS2 meeting
MOURNERS held a mock funeral to mark the death of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at a public meeting last night - prompting a walkout of HS2 bosses.
Four pall bearers carrying a green coffin emblazoned with the words 'The Chiltern AONB RIP' arrived at the end of an HS2 community forum at Little Kingshill Village Hall last night.
Their arrival led to senior representatives of HS2 Ltd getting up to leave the meeting, with the company's South Area Stakeholder Manager Martin Wells telling campaigners: "I'm really sorry you've felt you have to win this with a publicity stunt."
A series of forums have been held in communities along the route of the planned high speed rail line over the last 18 months, but residents have been left frustrated at the lack of information being made available to them.
At last night's meeting Buckinghamshire County Council's ward member for the Chiltern Ridges Patricia Birchley called for a vote of no confidence against the process.
She said: "This is evidence, if any further were needed, the community forums are pointless - it's simply a tick box exercise."
Residents again asked for greater detail on certain aspects of the plans to cut through the Chilterns AONB to be made available to them.
Simon Hook asked if any mitigation factors being considered by HS2 Ltd had been raised during the forums but Mr Wells replied: "We are not going to start trailling out various bits and pieces."
He said the points would have been raised in a presentation at the meeting but residents had chosen not to see it.
Mr Hook said: "I take that answer as a no", to which Mr Wells replied: "I'm not getting drawn with that question."
Mr Wells was also asked when the draft Environmental Statement would be made public. He said: "It will be in due course. I don't have a date. It's for the Secretary of State to publish the report."
Cllr Birchley asked the HS2 representatives what steps were being taken to ensure there was minimal disruption to traffic in the region while building work takes place.
Neil Cowie, HS2 Ltd's Country South Area Manager, said: "There isn't a straightforward answer to that. How it's managed is subject to discussions with local authorities going forward. There's no specifics at this moment in time."
South Heath resident Philip Rook, who was one of the pall bearers, said: "We think it proved a point by the fact the HS2 representatives were clearly frustrated.
"You can't just come into a protected AONB and destroy it without people being concerned. This area has millions of visitors a year - that's a huge valuable resource to be destroyed.
"To deliver a small coffin sums up our point."
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