County divided on HS2 rail route

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Susan WillisImage source, bbc
Image caption,
Water Orton villager Susan Willis said she expected her house to be demolished to make way for HS2

Opinion is split over whether route alterations on a new £33bn high-speed rail network will benefit Warwickshire.

The HS2 scheme was approved by the government earlier, with phase one between London and Birmingham expected to be completed by 2026.

The route takes the line through the villages of Ufton Wood, Stoneleigh, Burton Green and Water Orton.

Conservative MP for Kenilworth Jeremy Wright said alterations to the route would lessen its environmental impact.

Mr Wright, a government whip, has been an outspoken critic of some elements of the project in the past, questioning whether HS2 was the best way of delivering high-speed rail.

He said: "There are changes to the route which make it better than the route which was announced by the last government in March 2010.

"If you live in Ladbroke, or live in Stoneleigh or live in Burton Green I think you would recognise that."

In Burton Green, the route changes include a shallower cutting and a longer tunnel, to help shield the trains from the community.

'Living in limbo'

A longer tunnel is also planned at Long Itchington Wood, to the east of Leamington Spa.

Other route changes include moving the line further from Middleton in north Warwickshire, which HS2 Ltd said would result in fewer demolitions and reduce the noise impact.

Image source, bbc
Image caption,
The HS2 route is expected to go through Attleboro Lane in Water Orton

However, residents in nearby Water Orton say they have not benefited from the new route alterations, some fearing that a row of eight houses on Attleboro Lane on the outskirts of Water Orton will be demolished to make way for the line.

Teaching assistant Susan Willis, 47, lives in one of the homes which lie on the proposed route.

"You can only assume that as it goes straight through our house, that our house will be demolished.

"I've lived in this house for 27 years, my husband and I, this is the house we've sort of lived in all our married life, raised our children here.

"We've spent the past two years since we found out living in limbo, not knowing what's going to happen, not knowing what our future is and we've had the choice of whether or not we stay or move from this house taken away from us."

'Disappointing for wildlife'

Mr and Mrs Willis are waiting to find out whether they will be served with a compulsory purchase order.

Lynda Davies, who started the Water Orton action group said the fight against HS2 would continue and that there were still grounds for a legal challenge against the project.

Ian Waddell, from the action group based in Middleton, about five miles away, echoed Ms Davies's view, describing the consultation process as "a farce".

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust said the government's announcement was a "disappointing result for wildlife".

It added that HS2 could "threaten around 160 wildlife sites including more than 40 ancient woodlands".

Deputy leader of Warwickshire County Council Bob Stevens said: "We are disappointed that the transport secretary has decided to go ahead with the HS2 scheme.

"It will have a devastating impact on the countryside and it will have little benefit for us."

In contrast the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce described it as a "fantastic day for the West Midlands", saying thousands of jobs would be created in the region as a result of the project.

The government said the London to Birmingham section of HS2 would create about 40,000 jobs.

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