Church Prays To Halt HS2 Over Grave Fears
The Church of England has joined opponents of the Government's HS2 proposals, warning that the high-speed rail link will desecrate hundreds of graves.
The Archbishops' Council, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, says changes must be made to give greater protection to remains which have to be exhumed along the proposed route.
In a "humble petition" to the House of Commons, the Council says that works authorised by the Bill to bring in the project will involve the destruction of three burial grounds.
The petition says the Bill should not be allowed to pass unless the removal of remains are "treated in a decent and reverent manner" or are subsequently reinterred in consecrated land.
It adds there are inadequate provisions to ensure that any monuments that are removed "are disposed of in a suitable manner".
The petition says: "This is inconsistent with the approach taken in other legislation which provides for the compulsory acquisition of land and its use for statutory purposes."
It concludes: "Your petitioners therefore humbly pray your Honourable House that the Bill may not be allowed to pass into law as it now stands."
Other high-profile petitioners have also lobbied Parliament to stop the controversial scheme in its current form.
They include Earl Spencer, brother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and Lord Rothschild, who both own land along the route.
Other objectors include Nicholas and Alice van Cutsem, close friends of the Duke of Cambridge, and Lord Richard Wellesley, a descendant of the Duke of Wellington.
They have complained that the rail link will cut through their estates, cause noise and damage areas of outstanding natural beauty.
In April, 33 Conservative MPs rebelled against the blueprint for the high-speed line but the Government enjoyed a comfortable victory as the bill for the £50bn scheme passed with a 411 majority.
A wrecking amendment to the legislation for the project put forward by former Cabinet minister and rebel ringleader Cheryl Gillan was defeated by 451 votes to 50, with a total of 32 Tory MPs backing the amendment.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "Throughout the development of HS2, burial grounds have been avoided as far as practicable.
"We understand that the removal of human remains to enable HS2 to progress is a sensitive and emotive issue, which is why this issue is specifically dealt with in the Hybrid Bill and why HS2 Ltd. recently published a paper setting out how it would deal with affected burial sites along the route.
"Though the affected burial sites at Euston, Stoke Mandeville and Birmingham have not been in use for more than 100 years, HS2 Ltd. will ensure that the affected remains are treated with dignity, respect and care."