Whatever your position regarding the high speed rail link, it is impossible to argue that it has not had a profound effect on both the people and property that were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Local opposition in Buckinghamshire led to a rethink over the project’s tunnelling, which managed to reduce the worst excesses of the proposed route, limiting damage and safeguarding, for the present at least, to a large area of unspoilt countryside.
Unfortunately, as in the case of one of the last remaining pubs, there are very many casualties and the situation is only getting worse.
Depriving the area of a pub does not seem much of a disaster in an age where pubs are a rapidly disappearing local resource. The truth is more complex, often the reason a pub falls into decay, is because as a property on the residential market, or as a development site, it is of far more value.
The Barley Mow, as it once was known (most recently called Annie Baileys) , was one of six local public houses providing important community building and recreational services to the area. Now only The Cock and Rabbit at The Lee and Old Swan at Swan Bottom remain. In the past twenty years, the area has lost The Black Horse at South Heath, The Pheasant at Ballinger, The Gate near Swan Bottom and The Bugle at Lee Common.
Pubs introduce people to each other, they build community spirit and add value to an area. Without places to meet, people merely become residents of an area, rather than neighbours and village life becomes a thing of the past.
The Barley Mow was to be demolished to make way for the railway, it was a going concern and was fortunate enough to stand beside a very busy road. Now it has been vandalised, first by those stripping internal fixtures, copper pipes and external leadwork and later by graffiti ‘artists’. It is a fact that derelict buildings attract crime to an area and that effect has been all too noticeable here.
What will become of this building is anyone’s guess, though there is now a makeshift sign near the front of the building warning of a permanent HS2 depot being built there. Whatever the assurances and I have heard them all, there will probably be a raft of new developments in this once beautiful area, now that the carve-up has begun.
Companies such as HS2 are interested only in cost, delivery and profit, a pub like the old Barley Mow is simply a building that stands in the way of development. Similarly, I doubt whether The Chilterns is an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the HS2 board, more likely it is just an obstacle in every sense of the word.
What of the homeowners that find themselves disadvantaged? Having spent a lifetime, in some cases, buying and improving their most significant asset, suddenly it is worth a fraction of the value it once was. Consider the prices paid for property prior to the high speed rail announcement, compared with the price paid by HS2:
- 3 Bed Semi-detached property within 150 metres of tunnel at South Heath sold 2005 £314,500
- 3 Bed Semi-detached property within 150 metres of tunnel at South Heath sold to HS2 2016 £272,000
- 3 Bed Semi-detached property within 100 metres of tunnel at South Heath sold 2007 £345,000
- 4 Bed Semi-detached property within 100 metres of tunnel at South Heath sold to HS2 2016 £320,000
Throughout a period when property values have risen steadily in those Chiltern areas unaffected by HS2’s crippling blight, those that lay within a few miles of the line have been picked up at ‘fire sale’ values by the company. If you have to get out, due to illness or change of circumstances, HS2 is there hovering like a vulture and regrettably it will probably be the best deal you can expect to find.
From Zoopla: The current average value in HP16 *** in December 2016 is £750,414. This has increased 3.43% from September 2016. Terraced properties sold for a current average value of £406,967 and semi-detached properties valued £544,626. In the past year property prices in HP16 *** have increased 6.28%. This is according to the current Zoopla estimates.
Although Zoopla’s figures may leave space for some argument, the figures strongly suggest that properties within the HS2 blight zone, may be suffering devaluation of up to 50% in real terms. How much more suffering will be borne by those standing in front of the train, nobody can say. However, one thing is certain, The Chilterns will never be the same again and government is not going to admit it has made a big mistake now, too much is at stake.
Unless of course picking up cheap property and liberating part of an AONB for future development was the real intent behind HS2, if that is the case at least it would make some sense.
For more read the governments Guide to HS2 Property Schemes
Further Reading – HS2 The Zombie Train That Refuses To Die