I love a good protest, so I went to Hillingdon to visit the Harvil Road protectors, a group committed to stopping the damage to many square miles of beautiful places by HS2.
Normally I would be leaping to support a public transport project, but HS2 is a horror. It’s a railway that is far too expensive for the gain of 20mins reduction time in travel for a few business people and by-passes a lot of communities in desperate need of local rail services. It is also far too destructive for many Sites of Special Scientific Interest because it’s so fast it can’t go around corners to avoid them, and far too underdeveloped in planning eg what will happen to all those passengers shoved out at Euston into an already overcrowded transport system. So I joined the protectors of some very lovely water meadows in Hillingdon on the edge of London, who were cheerful, enthusiastic, and settling in for a long fight.
Their camp is a few tents on a verge alongside a busy road, with seating under a shelter of logs and old chairs. They immediately made me coffee by boiling a pot of water on their fire. Opposite is the carnage of acres of cleared woods and heaps of earth, with machinery and lots of yellow coated workmen.
When I arrived on the local bus, security guards immediately started filming me and were heard on their radios asking who I was. When we moved to their side of the road to take photos under a banner, they got nervous and asked us to go back to our side of the road.
There seems to be a lot of local support. While I was there, a small lorry stopped with an offer of a load of firewood and our chatting was constantly interrupted by cars, van, lorries hooting in support.
Hillingdon alone is losing 7,000 trees to HS2, which will add to air pollution, noise and a decrease in flood prevention. The Council seems to have accepted the removal of several hundred mature trees in North Hillingdon which will adversely affect air quality in an area inside the M25.
There are queries over the driving out and possible killing of badgers and bats. There are queries about whether the freshwater fish and eels will be depleted by water pollution from this very large project which is set to move or alter major watercourses in the Colne Valley. And there are queries over who is holding the companies involved to account for their Environmental Impact Assessments if badger sets can be destroyed and trees of breeding bats felled?
These few Harvil Road protectors are hoping to stop HS2 at this crucial junction where the first earth has been turned on the whole project. We must support them, not just by visiting, not just by hooting as we go past, but by chasing our political representatives, our councillors and our MPs, making clear our objections to the out of control big toy that HS2 has become.