By Kevin Unitt 09/03 Updated: 13/03 08:16
THE FAMILY of a Kenilworth man who committed suicide four years ago have been left in shock after HS2 Ltd sent him a letter asking to conduct environmental surveys at their house - then followed it up just five days later asking why he had not responded.
Vikie Shanks, who runs her own business and is a single mother of seven, said her children, four of whom are autistic, with two having cerebral palsy, were distraught at the “incompetent and uncaring” attitude displayed by the company, which intends to build the railway line through their land.
After Mrs Shanks posted a video to Youtube about the incident this week, HS2 Ltd apologised not to her, but via a public tweet to the generally used ‘#HS2 hashtag’ in what has been described as a “shamelessly cynical PR exercise” by campaigners.
Despite HS2 having been planned to go through the field next to their house for two years, the first contact Mrs Shanks had from HS2 Ltd was a letter in January this year, addressed to ‘The Occupier’ saying that she might be affected by the route of HS2. Subsequently, in a letter addressed to her deceased husband Paul, HS2 Ltd wrote on February 24 with a land access agreement, asking to perform surveys at Birches Wood Farm in Kenilworth, starting this month.
A third letter from HS2 Ltd was sent on February 29, saying they had not been able to obtain their telephone number and that they were anxious to ensure the previous letter had been received.
Vikie said: “My children found the letter and asked ‘Why are people still writing to dad when he has been dead for four years?’, but when I opened it and they saw what it was I had hysterics, because they said ‘How can they know that they need the land to build the train, but not know that Dad died four years ago?’
“They will hide behind the Land Registry, but they can’t hide the fact that they’ve not told anyone what is going on. There are a finite number of people affected and they have had two years to put the effort in to find out and talk to people, but they are simply incompetent and uncaring.
“Our home is important to us because it’s where the children lived with their Daddy and their Daddy killed himself and they don’t want to lose that home. They made me promise when he died that I would never move from that house. When this came along, they said ‘you promised’, but I told them this is beyond my control.
“The government don’t care about people, all they care about is acquiring the land and doing whatever they need to do to build the railway.”
Stop HS2 campaign coordinator and chair of the Kenilworth Action Group, Joe Rukin, said “nothing about the incompetence and brazen high-handedness of HS2 Ltd” surprised him any more.
He added: “They didn’t apologise to her, but simply sent a public tweet in the sort of shameless PR exercise we have come to expect. This is completely inappropriate and totally insensitive.
“The Government have clearly demonstrated that they do not care about those directly affected by HS2."
An HS2 spokesman said: “We are very sorry for the upset our letter has caused the Shanks family and we have written to Mrs Shanks personally to apologise. We are contacting hundreds of landowners as part of our survey programme and all our address information is taken from the official Land Registry. We have to assume that the details held there are correct.
“HS2 Ltd is carrying out environmental and engineering surveys all along the 140 miles of the planned route to better understand and minimise the impacts of the new line. We hope local landowners will work with us to reach a satisfactory access agreement but if one can’t be reached we will look at alternative ways of collecting the data we need.”
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