Published 16th March 2012
The family of a man who committed suicide four years ago have been left in shock after HS2 Ltd not only sent him a letter asking to conduct environmental surveys at their house, but then followed it up just five days later asking why he had not responded.
Vikie Shanks, who runs her own business and is a single mother of seven, said her children, four of whom are on the autistic spectrum, with two having cerebral palsy, were distraught at the “Incompetent and Uncaring” attitude displayed by the company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Department for Transport, which intends to build the railway line through their land. After Mrs Shanks posted a video to Youtube about the incident this week, HS2 Ltd apologised not to her, but via a public tweet to the generally used ‘#HS2 hashtag’ in what has been described as a “Shamelessly cynical PR exercise” by campaigners.
Despite HS2 having been planned to go through the field next to their house for two years, the first contact Mrs Shanks had from HS2 Ltd was a letter in January 2012, addressed to ‘The Occupier’ saying that she might be affected by the route of HS2. Subsequently, in a letter addressed to her deceased husband Paul, HS2 Ltd wrote on 24 th February with a land access agreement, asking to perform surveys at Birches Wood Farm in Kenilworth, starting in March.
A third letter from HS2 Ltd was sent on 29 th February, saying they had not been able to obtain their telephone number and that they were anxious to ensure the previous letter had been received. Despite the route maps showing HS2 would go through Birches Wood Farm since March 2010, the family have still received no official notification that HS2 will actually go through their property and what effect it will have on their house, which is within the defined ‘construction zone’. Whilst some people living along the route have had letters saying their homes and land may be subject to potential Compulsory Purchase Orders, the Shanks Family have not. 27 potential CPO letters have been issued in the nearby village of Burton Green, despite the fact HS2 Ltd said at the public consultation that only 27 properties would lose land or buildings in Kenilworth, Burton Green, Balsall Common and Berkswell.
“My children found the letter and asked ‘Why are people still writing to dad when he has been dead for four years?’, but when I opened it and they saw what it was I had hysterics, because they said ‘How can they know that they need the land to build the train, but not know that Dad died four years ago?’ They will hide behind the Land Registry, but they can’t hide the fact that they’ve not told anyone what is going on. There are a finite number of people affected and they have had two years to put the effort in to find out and talk to people, but they are simply incompetent and uncaring. I have rung HS2 asking for answers, when I finally got through to someone, she wouldn’t confirm what the maps have always said and wouldn’t even give her surname.”
“All HS2 Ltd talk about land and property, but people are losing their homes and homes can be important to people for lots of reasons. Our home is important to us because it’s where the children lived with their Daddy and their Daddy killed himself and they don’t want to lose that home. They made me promise when he died that I would never move from that house. When this came along, they said ‘you promised’, but I told them this is beyond my control. The Government don’t care about people, all they care about is acquiring the land and doing whatever they need to do to build the railway. With the eldery people who have lived in the council flats in Camden since they were built, it will kill them if they are forced from their homes. Out of HS2 Ltd and the Government, they just don’t give a shit about people and their human rights.”
“The plans have been public for over two years, but I wouldn’t have known a thing about it if the Kenilworth Action Group hadn’t put up a poster near our house. I still haven’t been told HS2 would go through the farm, and HS2 Ltd only went as far as ‘it may effect you’ in their first letter. Then, after they have had two whole years to establish contact, they write to us in the last week of February telling us they want to do an environmental survey on our land in March! When you have children on the autistic spectrum, they don’t handle change of any kind, and if HS2 Ltd come around and just dig the trenches they want for surveys, they won’t cope with it. They won’t cope with the reality of it all. I’m the one carrying the can and trying to support them all with absolutely no support from anyone.”
“Nothing about the incompetence and brazen high-handedness of HS2 Ltd surprises me anymore, save the fact that this Government-owned body entrusted with billions of pounds of public money keeps getting away with it. There are people in some parts of London who are only finding out now that their homes might be under threat. I cannot understand how they could conduct a public consultation without informing the people who will be affected, but of course why would they want to do that when it would have just meant more people actually read the plans and realised how bad a plan HS2 is? I would say at every point so far HS2 Ltd have done the bare minimum, but they haven’t even set the standard that high. After Vikie posted her video, HS2 Ltd posted to twitter that they were sorry and blamed the Land Registry, despite the fact they have know where HS2 would go for over two years. They didn’t apologise to her, but simply sent a public tweet in the sort of shameless PR exercise we have come to expect. This is completely inappropriate and totally insensitive, but all we have come to expect from them.”
“Consultants like ARUP have swallowed up millions of pounds of public money in getting the plans this far. After they have now had three goes, the maps are still littered with errors which we have pointed out. Take where Vikie lives, it’s Crackley Lane, it says on the map that it is Crackley Lane, but HS2 Ltd still insist it is Crackley Road. Then you look at where HS2 crosses Canley Brook, which they insist is called Crackley Brook, because the map says ‘Crackley’ in big letters next to it, and in the new plans HS2 seems to be crossing the brook at water level. The idea of a 225mph train going through a ford might sound spectacular, but hardly seems practical. In January HS2 Ltd made a big fuss about not now going through the Grade 2 listed Dalehouse Farm, where HS2 will now cross Finham Brook at flood level. But this ancient building is so close to the line that the owners are convinced it won’t survive the construction process, let alone the vibrations of the train going past. Of course HS2 Ltd neglected to point out that missing Dalehouse, means going through both buildings of New Kingswood Farm.”
“These may seem like minor niggles, but these are some of the issues in only about a mile worth of HS2 and are repeated all the way from London to Birmingham & Lichfield. They highlight a complete lack of detail and competence in drawing up the maps, but maybe more worryingly the same attitude has prevailed throughout the entire case for HS2. The Government have clearly demonstrated that they do not care about those directly affected by HS2, they same way they do not care that 99% of the population will never use HS2 but they will lumbered with the debts of it and will have to subsidise something which will only benefit the richest in society, whilst telling the country there is no money for public services. They do not care that there is no environmental case whatsoever and that the economic case is a work of pure fiction, they just want their shiny new train set and we will all pay for their stubborn arrogance.”
1. For more details contact Joe Rukin 07811 371880 or Vikie Shanks on 07887 998846.
2. The Shanks Children are; Jamie-Jodie (20) Kacie-Kimie (18) Lorie-Lanie (17) Mirie-Marie (17) Nikita-Nina (14) Osbourne-Oran (13) Pippa-Peita (11). There are six girls and one boy.
3. The family will be attending the Kenilworth Greenway walk to Burton Green on Sunday 11 th March.
4. The Youtube video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/BirchesWoodFarm