Former Grundon CEO warns of “drain on resources” of defending Colne Valley from HS2

Never has the phrase “poacher turned gamekeeper” seemed so apt, but former Grundon CEO Richard Skehens has used the platform of his position as head of the Colne Valley Park to warn of the funding pressures facing the Park as it defends itself from the threat of development.

Signing the new Colne Valley Charter at the Old Orchard, Harefield

Signing the new Colne Valley Charter at the Old Orchard, Harefield

Skehens, who, with MPs, signed the new Colne Valley Charter this Summer – a kind of Magna Carta for the Park – said that development pressures are coming “thick and fast” and remain a drain on resources.

In recent months the Park has appeared in front of the HS2 Select Committee, attended the SIFE planning appeal and submitted its own petition to Parliament opposing the relocation of the Heathrow Express depot to Langley.

THE COLNE VALLEY CHARTER:Loosely based on the Magna Carta, the Colne Valley Charter acknowledges that "...the Colne Valley Regional Park exists for the health of our souls and those of our ancestors and heirs....." and presents a vision for the Colne Valley as "...high quality countryside, waterscapes, villages, green spaces and other amenities that provide a regionally significant destination for recreational, sporting, educational and cultural pursuits...".

The Park has found itself embroiled in the complexities of the ‘hybrid bill’ process through which HS2 is being progressed and which, in due course, Heathrow’s plans for a Third Runway may follow.

Skehens, dubbed “the Father of the Colnbrook incinerator” by Grundon itself, has personally participated in the hearings for the Select Committee examining the Bill.  However, despite initially encouraging sentiments there has been disappointment at responses from both the Committee examining the Bill and HS2 itself.

What was requested The response so far
A tunnel under the Colne Valley. The Select Committee ruled out a tunnel but did endorse the case for high quality design for the Colne Valley viaduct, and have asked for assurances about the impact of construction and traffic.
Provision for a Heathrow Spur be removed from the Bill. The Select Committee asked HS2 that “passive provision” for the Spur… be removed from the Bill”.  HS2 will only say that it is “considering” this. The Parks says that “until such time as this is withdrawn the Colne Valley between Denham and Heathrow will remain blighted”
Impacted rights of way are replaced. The request has not been accepted but HS2 have offered some minor assurances on some Rights of Way diversions.
A plan for mitigation of the Colne Valley. HS2 has rejected a ‘landscape scale plan’ but offered a Colne Valley ’Panel’ but solely for ‘commenting’ on or ’influencing’ proposals put forward by HS2.

The Park remains hopeful that further announcements from the Select Committee on mitigation will contain better news but it continues to negotiate directly with HS2 on terms and conditions for the new Colne Valley Panel to be set up.

However, it says the Colne Valley Park CIC needs the ability to “bring forward costed, consented proposals for mitigation” and that will place a further demand on funding.

The Park, which is supported by Affinity Water, Amey, Grundon, Heathrow and Thames Water, is in the midst of carrying out consultation to help shape a £1.5m funding application to the Lottery Landscape Partnership.

The Colne Valley Park Community Interest Company will hold its Annual Forum on November 27. Dominic Grieve MP, one of the co-signatories for the Charter, will be the guest speaker.

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