HS2 villagers: 'We'd lose more than just the house'

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Image caption,
About half of the 12 homes are due to be demolished

Steve Speight and his family have lived among the small cluster of homes between Weeford and Packington, near Lichfield, Staffordshire for 13 years.

His is one of the 12 homes in the hamlet threatened by plans to build the HS2 high-speed plans through Staffordshire, on the route from Birmingham to Manchester.

But it is not just their homes the villagers fear they will lose - it is the sense of community they have built up there.

"If everything goes ahead as expected, our house will have gone and we'll need to find somewhere else to live," said church minister Mr Speight.

"We love living here. There's a great feeling around the community - looking out for each other, feeding each others' animals, that type of thing.

"And so, it's not just the location, but also the neighbours around us who we get on with great, and it's all that we'd lose - not just the house."

Image caption,
Steve Speight has lived in the hamlet between Weeford and Packington with his family for 13 years

Now the villagers are looking at possible sites where their homes can be rebuilt en masse if the plans to demolish the houses go ahead.

So far 10 of the 12 householders who live in Flats Lane and Knox Grave Lane have said they would be prepared to relocate nearby.

They say they have been talking to local landowners about potential sites and said they had received a positive response so far.

However, for the villagers to have any hope in successfully applying for planning permission, HS2 Limited, the company behind the rail plans, has to confirm the houses will definitely need to be demolished.

Compulsory purchase order letters have already been sent out to at least half the homeowners, while others could end up on an embankment overlooking the rail line.

In addition, residents have since been told their properties might not need to go if the rail line is raised by seven metres (23ft).

'Leaving us in limbo'

Residents said they feared the delays could end up leaving them homeless for some time - or missing an opportunity to get the land they need.

"It's leaving some of the community in limbo, and some of us potentially on the edge of an embankment," said Jonathan Loescher, who also lives in the hamlet.

"It's causing an enormous amount of mental stress on the community."

Image caption,
Jonathan Loescher said the uncertainty had caused an "enormous amount of stress" on the community

He added that the houses in the area were "unique" and it would be "very difficult" to find equivalent houses in the countryside "due to pressure on rural housing in the green belt".

HS2 said it had held regular meetings with the residents and would continue to do so.

Clinton Leeks, from HS2, said he understood the "frustration" of the villagers about not having a definite idea of what was happening to their homes.

He said engineers had been redrawing plans to find the "best value" route for the line, which would involve moving the fewest numbers of roads and affecting the smallest number of homes.

He added: "I am sorry, but yes - we've been looking at changes but that's consistent in our aim to get the best value for the taxpayer and also for the people who are affected."

The company said it expected to be able to give a clearer idea of what was happening by May.

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