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Council ‘bitterly regrets’ HS2 impact on ancient site

The Ridgeway long-distance footpath running across Grim's Ditch. Buckinghamshire Council
Approximately 75m Grim’s Ditch between Mongewell and Nuffield, Oxfordshire will be affected by HS2 (Image: Simon Burchell)

Buckinghamshire Council says it “bitterly regret[s]” the damage that HS2 will cause to an ancient earthwork in Great Missenden, after giving consent to high-speed rail route proposals that will affect the national asset.

An HS2 environmental statement expected approximately 150m of Grim’s Ditch to be removed by the high-speed rail route, but the approved proposals have reduced the amount to be excavated to approximately 75m.

“Whilst we are pleased that less of Grim’s Ditch will be impacted by the HS2 line passing through the area and that valuable archaeological information can be retrieved during the works, we bitterly regret that damage will be done to any part of this ancient monument,” said councillor Peter Martin, deputy cabinet member for HS2 at Buckinghamshire Council.

The reduction of scheduled damage was achieved by the introduction of retaining walls within the South Heath cutting. These will support the retention of the ancient monument in situ on either side of the railway.

The retaining walls are engineering structures of functional appearance located within a deep railway cutting away from public view.

A national asset

Grim’s Ditch is an ancient earthwork that stretches from Bradenham to Berkhamsted for approximately 18km and is thought to date from the Iron Age (800BC-AD43). It is a Scheduled Monument – the oldest form of heritage protection by Historic England.

The council said HS2 has been working closely with Historic England on the proposal’s details to keep as much as reasonably practical of the national asset.

The then secretary of state also granted approval for the proposed works and associated archaeological excavation methodology, on the advice of Historic England.

An initial appraisal by HS2 of the heritage impact in Buckinghamshire submitted by Buckinghamshire Council in response to the Transport Select Committee inquiry into HS2 said that the high-speed rail route “destroys 90m of Grims [sic] Ditch, a scheduled prehistoric boundary bank”.

Martin added: “Any potential adverse effects on the landscape character of the area would at least secure benefits to the Scheduled Monument and, on balance, the council had to give consent for the proposed works.”

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Comments

  1. HS2 must be the only company going who can cause irreparable damage to a scheduled monument (i.e. the oldest form of heritage protection offered by Historic England) and then make it sound like they’re doing us a favour. Despicable.

    • You’re right Sandra, it’s our collective cultural heritage which is being destroyed for an overpriced vanity project which will knock mere minutes off a journey time.

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