THE House of Lords Select Committee on the proposed High Speed Two (HS2) rail link between London and the West Midlands will hear a petition from St Pancras Parish Church, in London, later this year, over works at St James’s Gardens. The church’s petition comes despite an agreement secured by the Archbishops’ Council about how human remains at the site — through which the proposed HS2 route will go — will be treated.
In addition to raising concerns about St James’s Gardens, the petition is calling for greater environmental protections for trees, open spaces, and the built environment; it is also asking that the London terminus be relocated to Old Oak Common until a coherent plan for the development of Euston Station is in place.
The site is one of three burial grounds affected by the scheme. The others are St Mary’s Old Church, in Stoke Mandeville, and Park Street Gardens, in Birmingham. All were closed for burials more than 100 years ago.
The Bill, if passed, will dis-apply existing laws relating to burial grounds. Human remains in the path of the scheme will be exhumed and reinterred. The Archbishops’ Council originally petitioned against the Bill as it was progressing through the Commons; it argued that it should not go ahead unless a “decent and reverent” reburial is guaranteed for the human remains.
The Council withdrew its objections after it secured an undertaking from the Government that the Church could intervene in the exhumation and eventual reinterment of human remains “in order to ensure respectful treatment”.
The Department for Transport has made a commitment to “location specific” schemes for the three C of E burial grounds. “The Promoter will secure that articulated remains will, where reasonably practicable, be removed from the Burial Ground in which they are buried by hand digging,” it said.
Four other burial grounds lie above the tunnelled route of HS2, or partially within the limits of land to be acquired or used: St Giles’s, in Chalfont St Giles; St Mary’s RC cemetery, in Kensal Green; and local-authority cemeteries in North Acton and Kensal Green.
Churches lodge petitions THREE other Anglican churches, and a C of E school, have lodged petitions against HS2 with the House of Lords’ Select Committee.
They are among 827 petitions received by the Lords. The scheme’s promoter is challenging the locus standi [right to appear] of 414 of them, arguing that the petitioners are not “directly and specially affected” by the new line. The standing of the petitioning churches has not been challenged, and they are likely to be invited to give evidence to the Committee later this year.
The PCC of Chetwode is calling for the line to be constructed in a “cut and cover” tunnel through the village. They say that they are “very concerned at the depopulation of the parish of Chetwode, which has started already due to the blight from HS2.”
Its members say: “Many worshippers and church officers have confirmed they will vacate their homes and leave the village, drastically reducing the size of the congregation and the source of funds on which the Church of England depends for its ministry, and for the upkeep of the Grade I listed parish church.”
The PCC of St Mary’s, Wendover, claims that noise from up to 36 trains per hour passing within 280 metres of the church would “seriously impact on the activities of the church, which is used by the whole community for a wide variety of religious and secular activities”. The church is “the local concert venue for a range of high-quality concerts by top international artists, as well as many local artists and groups.”
The members argue that “the inevitable consequence of the noise caused by the railway without necessary mitigation will be the cessation of many of the activities, with the resultant loss of essential income which the PCC rely on to maintain the building for the use of the whole community for both religious and secular purposes. The current vibrant community space will be fatally diminished and lost to the community it now serves.”
Their concerns were rejected by the Select Committee earlier this year, as was a request for additional compensation for noise-mitigation works. “We believe the church will sufficiently benefit from the mitigation package, including the protection it provides in relation to noise from the A413,” the Committee said.
The existing proposed noise-mitigation in the area will cost in the region of £11 million, it said, compared with estimated costs in excess of £200 million for a bored and mined tunnel. “We believe that the [scheme’s] proposal constitutes a proportionate and adequate package of mitigation for Wendover.”
Similar concerns are expressed by the PCC of Twyford, which says that the line runs within 300 metres of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Its members also express concern at the disruption that construction works will cause. “If existing roads are closed, and diversions implemented, parishioners from the villages of Charndon and Poundon may consider attending other churches, thus affecting congregation numbers and church income,” they say.
“This could potentially affect the long-term sustainability of the church, and mean possible closure, which would be devastating for the community.”
The governors of Great Missenden C of E Combined School are asking for an extension of the proposed Chiltern Tunnel through the village.
Petitioners have a right to present their concerns to the Select Committee, which has the power to order changes to the scheme.