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April Pre Election Update

Since the announcement of HS2 our area has been blighted, with many house prices tumbling and the property market slowing dramatically leaving many unable to move or sell. Furthermore, the exceptional hardship scheme and the compensation scheme proposed for those affected by the route are woefully inadequate and haven’t eased the situation at all. If and when HS2 is operational it is possible train movements will be 24×7, will include overnight maintenance work and may also include freight services in the future.

Since David Higgins took charge of HS2 Ltd and through the efforts or our MP and SOWHAT, we’ve seen a commitment to re-evaluate the station location and route into Leeds. We believe a more direct tunnelled route, or a route largely following the existing transport corridors would be cost neutral in comparison to the complex viaduct construction originally proposed. Sir David Higgins also favours an integrated station in Leeds.

Representations to Leeds City Council resulted in 100% support of these ideas and for residents in our area, however we feel that subsequent commitment and efforts to petition HS2 Ltd have been lukewarm, with more attention being given by the Council to the development of the South Bank area of Leeds than to the plight of our area.

LCC could significantly influence plans for the station location which in turn would cause the route to be re-evaluated. SOWHAT met with Cllr Keith Wakefield (the leader of Leeds City Council) just before Christmas. He reiterated at that meeting that the Council are supportive of our cause and want to see HS2 brought into Leeds along a route which minimises impact on residents and which best integrates with existing rail services. We hope that the Council will lobby HS2 Ltd and Sir David Higgins hard to drive home this stance whilst the final route is being considered, though to date, we have seen little direct evidence that this is taking place.

The published route incorporates a 14m (46’) deep cutting through ancient woodland near the deer park at Clump Cliffe, and four tracks on viaducts across Methley Lane and Fleet Lane elevated to 24m (80’) before the lines split, with two continuing through Swillington Farm at over 26m and onward to Garforth, and the other two continuing at a height of 14m along the canal behind the Maltings, Pottery Lane and The Locks housing estate. The heights quoted are those of the track, remember there will be another 5-8m (up to 25’) above this for the viaduct, signalling and power gantries etc. In addition to the massive disruption during years of construction including road closures and the loss of local rail services, a permanent diversion of the canal and river are also possible as part of the proposals.

With the more recent proposals for ‘HS3’, to link Leeds and Manchester, and further interest expressed by HS2 Ltd to have one integrated station in Leeds, there is increased optimism that the route will be changed away from our area. A single integrated station for HS2, HS3 and existing local services is likely to require east/west orientation, with HS3 arriving from the west. The route for HS2 as currently proposed through our areas would not allow for such an alignment.

However, such optimism must be tempered by the current political situation, with a general election looming. There is great uncertainty as to what will happen following the election. With a change in government it is possible that plans for HS2 could change completely and any progress we have made could be halted or completely reversed. (On a more positive note, we could of course see the whole thing scrapped!) If there is a change of Government, it is also possible that David Higgins could be removed which would be a considerable blow as he is instrumental to the integrated station plans.

What is the current thinking of the main parties?

  • The current situation has developed under the coalition government and is likely to continue along a similar track under the Conservatives and/or Liberal Democrats. Both parties are openly supportive of the project. We could probably expect that the plans would continue as they are at the moment, but that David Higgins will continue with his work on looking to integrate the station in Leeds so a re-route would still be on the agenda.
  • The Labour Party is in favour of HS2 but has recently reiterated its intention to reduce the overall cost of the project. They haven’t made clear how these cost savings would/could be achieved. It concerns SOWHAT that an easy target for cost savings may be compensation for affected residents or the budget devoted to mitigating the massive impact of construction on local communities. Most of the comments relating to the budget for HS2 have come from Ed Balls in the Labour Party. As MP for Morley and Outwood, his constituency would be directly affected by HS2 if an alternative route into Leeds was chosen, which leads to SOWHAT wondering how impartial he would be when considering all the options. Mr Balls has also spoken about wanting to implement HS3 before HS2. Whilst we believe HS3 to be of more benefit than HS2 to the north of England, we certainly don’t want to see plans for HS2 simply put on the back burner, resulting in a further extension to the effects of blight and uncertainty in our areas. Labour could of course look to cut costs by announcing that Phase 2 should be scrapped with the line travelling from London to Birmingham only. They could also say they want to pursue only one part of Phase 2 meaning the line travels to either Manchester or Leeds but not both. This is all conjecture and we simply don’t know what they intend to do.
  • The Green Party is opposed to HS2 and want to see the project scrapped in favour of investment in existing and local rail infrastructure and public transport. They believe that long distance travel should be discouraged because it harms the environment and believe we should focus on technology as an alternative to long distance business travel in the future.
  • UKIP is also opposed to HS2 and believe it is a vanity project driven by the EU. They believe it has no business case, will saddle the country with debt and would be harmful to environment. They have said they favour investing in the existing railway infrastructure to meet any demand for increased capacity.

This is is a very simplistic analysis of the political situation in relation to HS2. We don’t believe it is SOWHAT’s job to influence the way people cast their votes. There are of course many other issues to consider at election time and we don’t want to start campaigning for a particular political party.

Last week a report by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee said that there was no convincing case for spending £50bn on HS2. Lord Hollick the chairman of the Lords Committee said that “The Government have not carried out a proper assessment of whether alternative ways of increasing capacity are more cost effective than HS2” and that “In terms of rebalancing (the economy) London is likely to be the main beneficiary from HS2. Investment in improving rail links in the north of England might deliver much greater economic benefit at a fraction of the cost”.

This report was the latest in a whole series of damning conclusions about HS2 from within Westminster itself. It was significant however because the Lords had taken evidence from The Department for Transport, HS2 Ltd, STOPHS2 and the HS2 Action Alliance. The report they published was an almost perfect vindication of the perspective of the HS2 protest movement. The Lords agreed (after careful analysis of both perspectives and the evidence presented) that the arguments against HS2 are much more plausible that the (largely invented) reasons for its construction. They openly disputed the governments argument that there is a capacity crisis on long distance rail services and were critical of the government’s attempts to hide their own statistics on current passenger numbers on existing long distance services.

After reading the report and listening to news articles and interviews on the day of its release, we were expecting the government would feel compelled to counter the arguments from the Lords. Their response was simply to state that “the case for HS2 is crystal clear”. There was NO counter argument, NO evidence and NO reasoning. Just that simple statement. With such a staggering level of crassness in the face of overwhelming reasoned argument, is there any wonder that we have no idea what the future might hold for our community?

Consultations Update

There are currently two consultations being run by HS2 Ltd, one on the Phase 2 route which will run through our communities, the other on compensation for the London to Birmingham section.  It is essential that as many people as possible respond to both, so please get every member of your household, friends and family members, no matter where they live, to complete responses for each consultation or put in their own submissions – every household in the UK will be paying £3,000 for the pleasure of HS2 so it matters to everyone!

Responding couldn’t be easier just sign and date the responses, along with your name and address, and pop them in the post using the freepost address provided, or if local drop them at Smiffies or Swillington Community Centre letterbox (on the gate of Swillington Primary School gate).

Phase 2 Route Consultation

Following the recent HS2 Ltd roadshows in Leeds, Garforth and Rothwell the SOWHAT committee has produced a generic response letter to the Phase 2 route consultation which can be used by anyone wishing to put in a response but for whatever reason don’t want, or feel able to write an individual submission.  The letter has been posted out by Alec Shelbrooke MP to over 1,000 homes in the area, SOWHAT will be delivering to further houses, copies have been left in a number of local businesses (Smiffies in Woodlesford, Swillington Community Centre and others), plus it can be downloaded below.

If you would like to read more about the consultation, find out what questions are being asked, view route maps or find out about local issues such as noise, visual blight and construction impacts please see HS2 Ltd’s website at


Phase 1 Compensation Consultation

HS2 Ltd is currently holding a consultation into compensation on Phase 1, and it follows that what they get so shall we, so we need everyone to respond to this.

SOWHAT have adapted five versions of a postcard response produced by HS2 Action Alliance, which again can be used to respond to the compensation consultation.  A postcard has been sent out to over 1,000 homes in the area by Alec Shelbrooke MP, further will be delivered by SOWHAT, some are available to pick up at various local businesses, or each of the five versions is downloadable below in letter form (you need only print off one version, any will do).

Further information on the compensation consultation can be found on the HS2 Ltd website



HS2 Response to route consultation FINAL
Phase 1 compensation consultation response 1
Phase 1 compensation consultation response 2
Phase 1 compensation consultation response 3
Phase 1 compensation consultation response 4
Phase 1 compensation consultation response 5

Phase 2 Route Consultation Roadshow

Friday 1st November 2013
Blackburn Hall, Rothwell
12noon to 8pm

Please attend, this is going to be your only chance to meet with HS2 Ltd during this consultation, to ask questions, highlight specific local issues and tell them how it will devastate our lovely villages and countryside.

Phase 1 Compensation Consultation

HS2 Ltd is currently holding a consultation into compensation on Phase 1, and it follows that what they get so shall we, so we need everyone to respond to this (closing date 4th December).   We have had postcard responses printed which will be posted out to over 1,000 homes and also made available at various local businesses to pick up (list to follow).  The cards are free to post and only require a signature and address which = 0p and 5 minutes of your time.  The consultation questions to which the postcards respond can be found here within response guidance issued by HS2 Action Alliance (this can be used as an alternative to the postcards if you would like to write your own response).

Newsletter June 2013

PDF download

It has been a little while since we last provided you with an update on what has been going on, so here goes….

Regular Meetings with Alec Shelbrooke

We have established monthly meetings with Alec Shelbrooke MP to discuss developments in our campaign and also Alec’s proposal for an alternative route; so far we have met twice. As part of his work on this, he has arranged for engineers from HS2 Ltd to visit the area so they can be shown the geography of where they are proposing to build whopping great viaducts. Representatives from SOWHAT will be joining the visit. We will keep you informed of the outcome(s).

Swillington Organic Farm Open Day – SOWHAT Attending

This Sunday, 9th June, Swillington Organic Farm will be holding their annual open day with plenty to do for all the family (lots of baby animals to keep the kids entertained). Ed has had a great idea for illustrating how the train line will carve through the farm and the scale of the viaducts – worth coming along for alone! SOWHAT will be having an information stall at the event, so please come down, between 11am and 4pm, to lend your support to both us and the farm.

Rothwell May Day Fair – SOWHAT Stall

SOWHAT had a stall at the Rothwell May Day Fair. Lots of people were very interested in hearing about the proposed route and its impact on the local community and environment. It was heartening so many support our efforts and believe the whole project should be scrapped. We will be having another stall at the Rothwell Carnival on Saturday 13th July, so make sure you pay us a visit at Springhead Park.

HS2 Debate in Leeds

On Thursday 27th June Leeds Metropolitan University’s Rosebowl is playing host to an event entitled ‘HS2 Debate: The fast train south is a strain not a gain’. The debate starts at 6.30pm and is open to anyone to attend, with advanced purchase of a ticket (£10). For more information please go to:

Campaign Funds

A huge ‘thank you’ to those of you who have donated to the SOWHAT campaign, so far we have raised over £900 which includes a very generous single donation of £500 from Appleyard Arbor Homes Ltd. The funds raised so far have enabled us, amongst other things, to produce leaflets and large format maps of the route, and pay for speakers from national anti HS2 organisations. We have also contributed £200 to HS2AA’s high court appeal fund, more on which below.

Political Opposition to HS2 in West Yorkshire Grows

You may have seen in the media over the last couple of weeks that a number of regional politicians have spoken out against HS2. Firstly, Barry Sheerman MP for Huddersfield has told Radio Leeds about how he was “conned by HS2 spin but changed my mind when I studied the evidence”. You can listen to the interview here . Following this both Cllrs Peter Box and David Green, leaders of Wakefield and Bradford Councils respectively, have expressed their concerns. Cllr Box has stated “At this time, I do not believe an economic case for HS2 has been made. We have to consider the environmental impact on the region and represent existing train provision and we have to ask the question – does this investment give residents the best deal? The cost per mile of HS2 has been identified as between £130m and £160m per mile, with 11.4 miles going through our district. At a minimum, this would be a massive £1.48bn that could, if invested in Wakefield make a real difference to the district, for example bringing our highways up to scratch and building new infrastructure.”

Cllr Green has said “I have misgivings about the way in which it is currently promulgated. I think it is a one club approach. Without investment in regional infrastructure at the same time you have to question whether it will develop the economy.”

Unfortunately there has been no such questioning from Leeds City Council as of yet.

National News

It has been a good few weeks nationally, following on from two Newsnight reports into fair compensation and the business case which highlighted significant issues with both, we have had the publication of the National Audit Office report into the robustness of the business case for HS2 and also the Government’s Major Project Authority has classified HS2 as ‘amber red: success in doubt’. The NAO ‘has expressed reservations about the Department’s business case. In particular, in presenting its case for investment in the project, the Department is said to have poorly articulated the strategic need for a transformation in rail capacity and how High Speed 2 will help generate regional economic growth.’ The full report can be found via the following link:

HS2 Action Alliance Return to Court

Back in March HS2 Action Alliance was given leave to appeal the judicial review decision on the environmental case. The ability to lodge the appeal was entirely dependent on £100,000 being raised by the end of May. Through a huge effort, including the raising of £20,000 over the last May bank holiday, the target was achieved and it is now all systems go for an appeal hearing in the near future. We’ll keep you updated on the outcome.

Exceptional Hardship Scheme Consultation Closes

As you will all be aware the Exceptional Hardship Scheme consultation closed on 20th May. Hopefully it won’t be too long before HS2 Ltd publish the findings/results. A big thank you to everyone who submitted a response. We will post our group response on the website very soon.

National STOPHS2 Convention – 29th June

Stop HS2 are holding a national convention on 29th June at Stafford County Showground, bringing together groups from across phase 1 and 2. A couple of representatives will be attending and we’ll provide an update after the event.

That’s it for now, thanks for reading.

Consultation deadline extended, now closing 20th May

The extension is due to HS2 Ltd releasing new information on the Phase 1 Exceptional Hardship Scheme which has been deemed essential for Phase 2 consultees to make fully informed responses.  The additional information can be accessed below:

Supplementary Information Note
HS2 Blight study
Phase 2 consultation extension Q and A

Those who have already submitted a response can provide a new/further response if they wish in light of the new information released.

For more information please go to the HS2 Ltd website at

Phase 2 Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) Consultation

Phase 2 Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) Consultation


It is essential that as many people as possible respond to the Government/HS2’s consultation on the proposals for the HS2 “Exceptional Hardship Scheme”.  To provide assistance in completing your consultation response the SOWHAT committee has put together a guidance document highlighting key points/issues with the proposed EHS scheme which you may wish to include in your submission.   In addition to this we have received a similar document from the HS2 Action Alliance which has been shaped by experience from phase 1.

Please take the time to respond and urge as many of your friends and family to also do so, no matter where they live – it’s a numbers game!!

Consultation Document
EHS – SOWHAT response guidance
HS2AA phase 2 EHS consultation response guide

Newsletter 1 – February 2013

Following our meeting on Wednesday 20th February, there have been a number of developments in our campaign which you may be interested in.

Meetings & Communication with Alec Shelbrooke MP

Hopefully many of you took the opportunity to meet with Mr Shelbrooke when he visited residents at two meetings on Saturday 16th February.  We believe that most residents have also now received a 3 page letter from him, in which he states that he is meeting with the Secretary of State for Transport to attempt to move the proposed route slightly further across the valley (to mitigate its impact) and to express our concerns in relation to fair compensation.  We wait with interest to see what response he receives.

Whilst Mr Shelbrooke has indicated that he supports HS2 and believes it will be coming into Leeds down the Aire Valley, we would encourage everyone to continue writing to him to express your doubts and concerns.  Continuous lobbying, pressure and communication from his constituents will help to keep the issue firmly on his agenda.

Media Coverage

We were contacted by the Yorkshire Evening Post at the beginning of last week for input into an article they ran on 19th February about the impact of HS2 on residents in south east Leeds.  Councillor Golton raised our concerns with the Council’s Executive Board and the YEP interviewed him in its piece.

We also got coverage on Radio Leeds throughout the day on Thursday 21st February when they discussed the impact of HS2 on residents and broadcast interviews with James Lynch, Jo Smith and other local residents.  They balanced this with interviews with directors of HS2 and railway pressure groups and supporters.

Leeds University Radio interviewed James Lynch on Thursday 21st February and broadcast a news report on the local impact of HS2.

Finally, the Rothwell Record will be running a 3 page special feature on HS2 in their next issue which will be available at local stores from Friday 1st March.

Swillington Organic Farm & Parish Council

We were delighted to welcome Ed Cartwright from Swillington Organic Farm to the committee meeting.  Ed is also involved with Swillington Parish Council and we are hoping that we can all join forces to work together on the campaign against HS2.  The Parish Council is holding a meeting on Sunday 3rd March and someone from the SOWHAT committee will be attending.

Committee Plans

At the most recent committee meeting, we began to share out tasks and focus on a plan for moving the campaign forward.  We will be communicating an action plan to committee members very soon which will allocate specific tasks to volunteers and help share the workload amongst everyone who has agreed to get actively involved.  Tasks will include further research, contacting other affected organisations/pressure groups,  organising special events and lobbying politicians.

Communication Plans

Stephen Blackburn came up with a great idea for a logo for SOWHAT, which can now be seen on the homepage of the website (and this newsletter’s header) and should shortly appear on our Twitter and Facebook pages.  We will also be using it on any printed promotional material we produce.

Louise Drake has kindly agreed (in addition to setting up our Twitter account @hs2sowhat) to put together a communication plan for the group which will bring together all our marketing and promotional activity on a project timeline.

The communication plan is going to include the production of some leaflets/postcards which we hope will include an artist’s impression of how the proposed line will look running alongside the canal, highlight the risks of house prices falling across the wider area, and ask people to join the Facebook group and write to our MP Alec Shelbrooke.  With this in mind – we are keen to find out if anyone in communication group is a printer, or knows anyone who could help us get the leaflets/postcards produced.

Deputation to full Council

Dayle and James are in the process of applying to present a deputation to a meeting of all Leeds City Councillors.  We hope to confirm a date soon for this to happen in April or May, but must submit an outline of the speech first.  Once confirmed, this will give us the opportunity to speak to at Full Council for 5 minutes, highlighting the blight and impact we have all suffered as a result of the project which the Council have been so supportive of.  We intend to ask the Council to provide assurances that they will only support HS2 when the government will guarantee that no citizen of Leeds will be expected to suffer a personal financial loss as a result of the project.

Bank Account for Campaign Funds

We will shortly be able to provide details of the bank account we are opening to gather small contributions from residents to help with the ongoing expenses of running the campaign.  Unfortunately, there are costs associated with producing surveys and leaflets, hiring meeting venues and speakers etc, and we would be very grateful for small contributions.  More details will follow once the account is open.

Sustainability Reports & Freedom of Information

Bernard Dixon had made progress reading the sustainability reports into the proposed route of Phase 2 of HS2, (a document which runs to over 400 pages!) and raised a number of ambiguities within the findings which we believe present opportunities to submit Freedom of Information requests for further information.  For example, the report mentions properties it believes will be impacted by noise, or which fall within specific distances from the proposed route, but it doesn’t say which properties these are.  The report also makes the distinction between rural and urban areas, but doesn’t say what areas fall into which classification.  We intend to submit FOI requests to clarify these issues over the next few weeks.

Responding to Exceptional Hardship Scheme Consultation

On 28 January 2013, the Secretary of State for Transport, announced the launch of the Exceptional Hardship Scheme consultation for properties affected by Phase Two of HS2 between West Midlands and Manchester and Leeds.  We would encourage everyone to submit a response to this consultation.  The more people who respond, the more chance the government may actually listen to what people are saying.  Full details are available here, where the consultation instruction and response documents can be downloaded.

As well as individual responses it has been agreed by the Committee that a group response will be submitted to the consultation.  Once a draft has been produced we will circulate for comment before finalising.

Lastly date for your diary….

We would like to invite residents to a second open meeting on Monday 18th March , 8pm at Blackburn Hall, Rothwell.  Apologies for the venue not being in the village(s) but due to availability and given we were bursting at the seams at the Two Pointers we thought it prudent to book as large a room as possible, plus under the Council’s lettings policy we’ve got the main hall for free!  The main focus of the meeting will be a presentation given Andrew Bodman from AGAHST – the umbrella group for organisations fighting HS2 (including STOP HS2).  He will talk about campaigning, providing advice to us in relation to fighting the proposals and protecting our interests and will answer questions from residents, as he has significant experience from phase 1 of the project.  Should you have any specific issues/questions you’d like Andrew to address please forward them to woodlesfordhs2@gmail so that we can provide some pre-meeting notification to him.

That’s all for now, thanks.