‘Hideous’ HS2 viaducts spark local fears for Solihull
Solihull campaigners have raised fresh concern about HS2 viaducts, after designs for the structures unveiled in another part of the country were branded “grotesque”.
Richard Lloyd, from the Heart of England High Speed Railway Action Group, said that residents in the Chilterns area had been appalled by the recently published plans – believing they would blight the area of outstanding natural beauty.
The backlash against the designs – which one critic had described as “hideous concrete” – has fuelled fears about the impact that viaducts will have on the borough’s own landscape.
Speaking this week, Mr Lloyd urged HS2 officials to consult closely with local people to avoid similar criticism in Solihull.
HS2 Ltd has said it is committed to “detailed engagement”, while conceding that there are some restrictions on the options that can and cannot be considered.
Outlining his case at the HS2 Implementation Advisory Group on Thursday, Mr Lloyd said: “The design of the viaduct [in the Chiltern Hills] has been dismissed as being ‘Stalinist concrete’.
“Very unflattering comments have been made and I think we would like to be involved at an early stage to see if we can head off the same issues in our area.
A lot of statements have been made about the grandeur of Victorian engineering being recreated and we’re all going to stand back and admire it. Well the design of the viaducts is absolutely critical.”
The bridge-like viaducts will be needed to carry the rail line over certain obstacles and features of the landscape, such as the flood plains to the east of Hampton-in-Arden.
The appearance of the imposing structures – as well as associated noise barriers and overhead lines – has been one of the main concerns of nearby residents ever since the multi-billion pound rail link was announced.
Calling for discussions about the options available to begin “sooner rather than later”, Mr Lloyd, who lives in Balsall Common, suggested that the existing Stonebridge viaduct could be a possible blueprint.
“[It] really is quite an acceptable structure. It’s cladded brickwork and it sort of merges into the scenery and looks appropriate.
“It’s certainly a hell of a lot better than the proposals for the Chilterns, where there’s massive great steel girders that are not even going to be painted. They’re going to be left to weather apparently, in other words they’re going to be left to rust.”
Jonathan Lord, HS2 Ltd’s senior area engagement manager, said that the company was “very keen to talk” to Solihull Council and the relevant parish councils about key elements of the project’s design.
“Just going back to Richard’s point [on] early engagement. We would welcome that opportunity and we have actually a meeting in the diary with Berkswell Parish Council, just to be confirmed, in November.
“What is quite key in the situation is to be upfront in terms of what is open for input and to manage expectations, because obviously there are engineering restrictions and requirements. There are land restrictions and requirements which also impact on design.
“We will need to be quite clear with both communities and stakeholders in terms of what can be considered and, in some cases, what can’t be considered.”
Read more: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/hideous-hs2-viaducts-spark-local-15243717