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Court concerns

I agree with the concern expressed by M Overend regarding the decline of shopping facilities in Dorridge (Letters, Sept 3).

I agree with the concern expressed by M Overend regarding the decline of shopping facilities in Dorridge (Letters, Sept 3). I do not however share his/her criticism of the local residents association as it has made tremendous efforts to breathe life into the village centre and has worked effectively with the council on establishing the Conservation Area status of Station Approach, restoration of the war memorial and maintenance of the planted areas.

Regrettably the decline is much more about the constant changes in ownership of Forest Court and refusal by some previous owners to even meet with councillors and the residents association to discuss concerns.

As a community we also have to accept some responsibility because shops only survive if there is sufficient local patronage and several attempts to run a viable small supermarket ended in failure.

As councillors we successfully argued against the scale of the Sainsbury proposals at planning committee and it is to their credit that rather than appeal over this refusal Sainsbury has been prepared to listen to local views. It remains to be seen whether they will now come back with an acceptable scheme but without a major investment in the centre things look pretty bleak.

Ken Meeson

Ward Councillor

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HS2 alert

I NOTED the latest article on HS2 on Friday, talking about the hope of Balsall Common resident, Paul Joyner, for ‘meaningful debate’ with his MP, Caroline Spelman, on its viability. Alas, after attending the Hampton Society ‘information’ event last Wednesday, where Ms Spelman spoke, alongside a rail journalist, Alan Marshall, I fear he could be waiting some time.

With others, rather than ‘informing’ I came away with the distinct impression that Ms Spelman is part of a lobbying group spreading ‘misinformation’.

The fundamental problem was that both Mr Marshall and Ms Spelman made their case for HS2 by presenting Government forecasts for rail usage as if fact, to claim there is no more rail capacity without HS2.

However, HS2 Ltd makes its case by assuming rail-use to rise by a staggering 267 per cent by 2033 - much faster than expected from GDP trends.

There is also not a shred of evidence to support the assumption that passengers will pay the higher prices and make the huge assumed switch to HS2 from road and air.

The presentation also failed to provide the context of Government records with forecasting: About eight years after the Channel Tunnel was built, demand was about a third of Government’s forecasts at the outset. More recently, the costs of “greening” the UK have been revised upwards from £200bn to £550bn - another indicator of forecast reliability.

Also unsubstantiated was Ms Spelman’s (repeated) claims that HS2 brings regeneration benefit. She didn’t inform, for instance, that independent analysis by Imperial College suggests this will be relatively small and lead to uncomfortable disparities between rich and poor.

When it comes to misleading, I believe the worst is that ‘HS2 is green’; a total myth that Ms Spelman seems to create and perpetuate: That “HS2 is green” is not even the view of the zealously ambitious folk who wrote the business case, who believe HS2 will be about carbon neutral.

For HS2 to not turn ‘murky brown’ requires that it hits the unprecedented demand forecasts.

Mr Marshall explained how HS2 would cause less damage to the local environment than a motorway, by showing the audience a picture of the Kent High Speed line adjacent to a motorway; at a point it was two tracks wide. Surely this is deliberately misleading when the line will be four tracks wide and Stonebridge station is expected to be six tracks wide: every bit as wide as a motorway!?

Ms Spelman also told us how HS2 will help us when petrol prices are hiked, later in the decade. However, her Government fully intends to see electric vehicles becoming main-stream well before HS2.

There was also the apparent desire not to discuss very simple alternative options to HS2. For instance, I don’t think all evening I heard the idea that longer trains, declassifying first class travel on the current mainline, along with increasing capacity on the Chiltern line, could together double rail capacity between Birmingham and London; without the disturbance of a blade of grass and at a tiny fraction of the cost.

Ms Spelman stressed the case that we need HS2 to reduce domestic air traffic. However, she later painted her vision of HS2 helping Birmingham to become a hub for international air travel.

It was also, ultimately, telling in a meeting to provide ‘information’ that the audience had to prise it out the panel through their questions, on such fundamental matters as noise levels, damage to the countryside, destruction of sites of scientific interest; the increased traffic levels; and the small matter of a 7,000 car car-park appearing adjacent to a village with 2,000 residents.

A Hampton resident

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Silent majority

I SEE that the Shirley Residents Association are claiming that their recent survey proves that the majority of Shirley residents are against the proposed Parkgate development. On closer inspection of the figures, I have a different view.

Of the 6,000 homes that received a form, only 17 per cent (or 1,020) actually responded. Of this 17 per cent of people, 61 per cent (622) were against the development. So of the 6,000 Shirley homes that received a form, only about 10 per cent returned a form to raise their objection.

On the basis that anybody who is against the development would have made sure they completed the survey, I think that 10 per cent is probably a fair reflection of the Shirley residents that are opposed to the scheme. As much as these people might enjoy the delights of run down shops, please can they now stand aside and let the silent majority have some much needed improvements to Shirley.

P Abbott

Shirley

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Melting away

MY caring council was kind enough to place a very nice large white bag on my doorstep to put my unwatned plastics into. But I must admit that I have it out in all weathers and unfortunately it is breaking down faster than the summer.

Ray Dyke, Leafield Rd, Solihull

 

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