Sep 28 2011 By James Cracknell
THE Liberal Democrats became a focus for anti-HS2 anger after a big thumbs-up to the project was given at their annual conference.
Mirroring what has happened with the local Conservative and Labour groups, Lib Dems in Hillingdon have been forced to counter the arguments of their own national parties.
In Birmingham this month, the Lib Dems gave their biggest show of support for HS2 yet with a rousing speech in favour of a new high-speed line from transport minister Norman Baker.
Hillingdon Against HS2 chairman Keri Brennan reacted angrily to what she described as his "ill-informed and insulting" comments. In an open letter to Mr Baker, she said: "Had you bothered to investigate you would have found in west London there are no proposals for tunnels or bunds.
"The proposals are for a raised embankment at bedroom height with all of the existing mature trees removed, replaced by a three-metre fence to obscure five-metre high trains and seven-metre high electrical equipment.
"We have been told in person that gardens will be used for building works. Should you doubt any of that, we challenge you to refute this with evidence."
Mr Baker earlier told his party's conference: "I recognise that those who live close to the proposed line are less enthusiastic about the idea than the rest of us. I recognise there are understandable concerns at the London end in particular.
"But along the line I do believe the Department for Transport has taken great steps to minimise both noise and visual intrusion. That of course has not stopped some of the alarmist horror stories in the press."
Mike Cox, a former councillor in Ruislip Manor and a parliamentary spokesman for the Lib Dems in Hillingdon, told the Gazette that he had himself challenged Mr Baker at a conference fringe meeting.
"I specifically went there to challenge him along with councillors from the Chilterns," he said. "Our argument is that £32bn can be much better spent without taking down so many properties in London."
With the national Labour and Conservative parties also supporting HS2, only the Green Party has officially opposed the project in the House of Commons.
Hillingdon Green Party convenor Graham Lee, of Beech Avenue, Eastcote, said: "We have seen the lobbying of the aviation industry and we know that HS2 is specifically designed for them.
"Any support for HS2 is effectively support for another terminal at Heathrow."