'˜HS2 failed to tell us our houses would be demolished' - Mexborough residents' heartbreak over route plans
When news of the proposed re-routing of the HS2 line through Mexborough broke in July, hundreds living on the partially-finished Shimmer Housing Estate were left feeling shocked and stunned as they woke to letters informing them their homes now faced possible demolition.
But a number of residents living on streets nearby, whose homes could also be bulldozed, were never contacted by HS2 Ltd and only discovered they could be affected when they carried out their own research, found out through Facebook - and in the case of one couple - stumbled on the news completely by accident.
An HS2 Ltd spokesman says this ‘error’ was caused by problems with Royal Mail failing to deliver letters to a specific postcode; however when asked for a full list of Mexborough postcodes set to be affected by the new route HS2 Ltd declined to comment.
HS2 Ltd have also declined to comment on which affected postcode was missed out on the letter drop - but did confirm that properties in Pastures Road also face demolition.
The Schofield family who live in Pastures Road, Mexborough could see both their homes and business bulldozed if the plans are given the go-ahead.
The family first took up the land in the 1970s when Graham Schofield set up his business, Cock of the North Poultry Farms, there.
Graham built his home from scratch there shortly after. He was followed by his younger brothers Tom and Geoffrey, who also built their family homes on the land.
Tom’s wife, Karen, says the family only became aware of the fate facing all of their homes and their business through ‘word of mouth’.
When Karen contacted HS2 Ltd by email for confirmation, after attempts to speak to HS2 Ltd representatives at consultation meetings in Mexborough proved fruitless, the 56-year-old was sent a reply which simply stated: “As the trains pass the property, the newly proposed Phase Two Route is to be on a viaduct at a distance of approximately 0 metres. The line of route is proposed to be directly through your property.” She said: “I burst into tears when I read that. I couldn’t believe the way they’d phrased it. These are peoples lives they’re playing with. It was so inconsiderate.
“I know they’re offering to buy the land, but this is worth more to us than that. These are our homes. When we moved in we thought these would be our homes for life.
“We’ve had a difficult year - I had emergency bowel surgery in October, Tom had a serious heart attack in January and then Graham had his leg off in February. This kind of stress is the last thing we need.
“It’s caused so much anguish already. I feel pretty heartbroken.
“We’re going to fight this as a family, we’re not going to just accept it.”
Tom said: “I’m sure there must be lots more people out there who haven’t been told either and who haven’t thought to look into it. They didn’t even have our houses down on the map, I think there’s a lot of houses they have accounted for.
“These plans need to be destroyed. It’s a big white elephant, that’s not going to benefit anyone in Mexborough or the north really.
“I’ve read that they’ve spent £2billion on HS2 so far and not a single track has been laid.”
Commenting on the email received by Mrs Schofield, a spokesman for HS2 Ltd said: “Clearly this response is not up to the standard we expect from our staff and we’ll be reviewing the handling of this case to ensure lessons are learnt.”
Vicki D’Silva, who lives in Mallory Drive in Mexborough with her husband and two young children, says she found out that her home was located close to proposed route when she saw a post on Facebook from a friend living on the Shimmer Estate.
She said: “The post said look at the map, because they thought there were more parts of Mexborough that hadn’t been mentioned on the map of the route.
“ I actually wanted to have a look to find out if my parents who live in Old Denaby would be affected. But when I looked I could see that my home clearly looked as though it was within the affected 50 metres.
“I went to the meeting at the Resource Centre and they told me that there had been an error because the line goes over where I live.
“They confirmed that our house was safeguarded and so they can give us compensation or buy the value of the property if the line would make our lives unbearable.
“As soon as I found out I went to tell all of my neighbours on my side of the road, and a lot of them didn’t know.
“The houses on the opposite side of the street are more than 50 metres away, so are not safeguarded.”
Vicki says she chose her property in Mexborough because of the rural views and the fact it was in a nice area, close to her family. She says she thinks the route could force out a lot of the more affluent people from the area - something she says would ‘decimate the town’.
The 38-year-old added: “If they knock down this house, we’ll leave Mexborough for good. I work in Manchester and my husband works in Leeds, we both work in cities which is why we don’t want to live in one.
“I think there are a lot of people in Mexborough who have chosen it for the same reasons.”
A spokesman for HS2 Ltd said: “When the new proposals for the South Yorkshire route were announced, we wrote to people affected by the plans to inform them of the changes. Unfortunately, it looks like a small number of properties did not receive the correspondence we sent.
“We deeply regret the concern and anxiety this has caused and we will continue to work with the local community to ensure they have access to all the information they need.”
Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband said: “This shows once again that the new HS2 route has not been thought through in terms of its impact on people and communities.
“It comes on top of a report by MPs last week which called into question the case for and claimed cost savings of the new HS2 route. The evidence is mounting that these proposals are the wrong answer. The government needs to listen and act.”
This comes after Doncaster Council passed an unanimous motion opposing the HS2 route through Mexborough and parts of Doncaster this week.
Mexborough First is set to hold a meeting to discuss the campaign to oppose the HS2 route through the region at Mexborough Academy on Thursday, September 29 at 7pm.