A CHURCH near Aylesbury has described a £250,000 offer of noise-reduction work from the promoters of the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail link as “woefully inadequate”, saying that it needs to carry out work costing in the region of £2 million to mitigate the noise from the trains.
Last week, the Area Dean, Canon Mark Dearnley, along with members of the congregation of St Mary’s, Wendover, appeared before a special HS2 Select Committee that had been set up to hear petitions from people affected by the work. MPs on the committee have the power to direct changes to the Bill.
Over the past 17 months, they have considered almost 2600 petitions, and have introduced changes, including extending the length of a tunnel at Wendover, the construction of noise barriers, and noise-attenuation works to St Mary’s. But, in evidence given this week, the members of the congregation said that the changes would “not solve noise problems”. And they argued that the noise from the trains would be “fatal” for concerts that take place at the church.
William Avery, who, according to his petition, “leads the music and is deeply involved in the fabric of the building and technology in the church”, told the committee that a breakdown of the figure provided by HS2 included £68,200 to provide secondary glazing to 12 clerestory and 15 stained-glass windows. “That equates to £2500 a window, which is just a ridiculously low figure,” he said.
He also criticised HS2’s proposals for the installation of sound installation boards inside the church’s roof. Instead, the roof should be rebuilt, he said, with the panels on the outside; the installation of the panels underneath the roof would “create dew-point problems [the temperature at which dew forms], which would result in rotting of the roof, which is obviously completely unacceptable”.
This solution was also “unacceptable from a heritage point of view”, he said, because, “if you put the sound insulation on the inside, it’s between the joists, and you’ll lose the profile of the roof on the inside of the building.” He argued that the DAC would “be vehemently against that approach”.
He told the MPs that HS2’s proposals “won’t work from the point of view of technical protection of the building, and from an aesthetic point of view”.
Responding to the church’s arguments, James Strachan QC, for the Department for Transport, told MPs that the noise-attenuation works proposed at the church were in addition to the installation of noise barriers, which, by themselves, would “achieve levels of noise within the church . . . which make it suitable for its current concert venue position”.
And he said that the proposed “budget of up to £250,000” for the works to the church was “not an arbitrary figure that we have plucked from the air”, but was based on “costed measures of noise attenuation” estimated at £188,000. “Our offer is £250,000, which allows for a considerable latitude for changes,” he said.
The Select Committee has now completed hearing petitions, and will publish its report on 22 February. The Bill will then go before a more general Select Committee, before completing its Commons stages. The Government expects the Bill to complete its passage through Parliament by the end of this year, and work on the line to start next year.