‘HS2 has turned our rural village of Water Orton into a building site due to work on Birmingham terminal’

We speak with residents of Water Orton in north Warwickshire about the issues they are facing as HS2 builders work on Birmingham terminal

Fuming locals say the beleaguered HS2 rail project has turned their pretty rural village into a “hellish building site”.

The government scrapped the link between Birmingham to Manchester but the first phase of the high-speed railway is still underway. As a result, two huge 700m (2,297ft) long viaducts are being built to carry trains over the M42 by Water Orton, in North Warwickshire.

The village lies eight miles west of the planned terminal in Birmingham and residents say their lives have been made a “misery” by the works. Retired Colin Brookes, 69, who has lived in the village for 35 years, said: “I used to be able to walk the dogs around the village and across the fields but not anymore.

“You can’t walk anywhere now because HS2 contractors have dug all the fields up. They even had the cheek to put a sign up which said ‘Environmentally Sensitive Area’ when they’ve gone and cut all the bleeding trees down and ripped out all the hedges.

“The local school which was a lovely old Victorian building was knocked down because they didn’t think the children would be able to concentrate with lorries going past every two minutes.

“I live on the main road and there are potholes everywhere and I believe that’s down to the lorries going up and down there. It’s demoralising, this used to be lovely country village where you'd get peace and quiet away from the city but now it’s like driving into a big building site. People want to leave because of the hassle.”

Gary Clarke, 53, is the landlord of the Digby Hotel pub and lives close to the main site where 32 giant pillars supporting the 60ft high viaduct are being erected. He said: "The lights and noise at night make it difficult to have any rest and it's all day as well.

"Trade hasn't been badly affected but the workers from the site bring in a lot of mud and dirt into the pub. We've had to restrict access to workers at the weekends to give priority to the locals because the dirt and mess can be so bad."

Charity worker Angie Brown, 45, branded the HS2 project a “waste of money”. The mum-of-two said: “When I found out HS2 was building in the village I was disappointed but wasn’t that worried because we were promised so many things.

“They said they’d build a new rugby club which they have and someone said the roads would be repaired and they’d be upgrades but it’s all come to nothing. The village is now surrounded by a hellish building site. HS2 has literally bulldozed Water Orton into the ground.

“It’s heartbreaking. The impact of the building work has caused flooding and when they work at night the lights are so bright it’s like living next to Blackpool Illuminations.

“HS2 has ruined the roads and the countryside around here. Lots of people just want to move away but who wants to buy a house here? We’re trapped. When the Government said the northern leg was being scrapped I wish they’d just scrapped the lot but they were too far in to do that.”

Parents living in the 3,500-strong village, which dates back to the 13th century, say they fear for the safety of their children. One dad, who did not wish to be named, said: “The streets in the village are narrow and winding and they’ve always been that way which was fine for the amount of cars using them.

“Suddenly dozens and dozens of lorries are coming up and down the roads all day every day. It’s only a matter of time before someone is run over. The fact is the village is not equipped to cope with the lorries. I don’t know anyone who has anything good to say about HS2.

“In years to come historians will look back on the decision to build HS2 and conclude it was probably one of the most damaging and wasteful policies ever made.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.