Dozens more hunts stand to be affected by the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail link after the government revealed they intend to press ahead with a second phase, which would slash through the Midlands and north of England.

In November last year, H&H reported how the proposed first phase of the HS2 link, from London to the West Midlands, cuts a swathe through four hunt countries, plus racecourses, cross-country courses and 79 rights of way.

The final route, which will be put forward for public consultation in February, has now been revealed by the government, along with plans to extend the route to Leeds and Manchester.

And the StopHS2 group, set up by rider Lizzie Williams, is calling on hunts to fight it.

She said: “We need you to fight for our rural communities on the same scale as the Countryside Alliance campaign against the hunting ban. Take away the land and hunting is gone forever.”

The StopHS2 campaign claims the first phase of HS2 will affect the Bicester with Whaddon Chase, Grafton, Kimblewick and Warwickshire countries.

But the extensions into the north of England (planned for 2017) will cut through nine more.

“This project, including access roads and depots, affects approximately 5,000 square miles of land — that is the same size as the county of Greater Manchester,” said Lizzie. “We need to take time to think about how it will change our landscape for ever.”

Tim Easby of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) said: “The four hunts affected so far are very active against this project locally, but it’s difficult for us to rally those whose countries are not affected yet.”

He suggested people concerned about the route should visit the regional roadshows that will be part of the consultation from February.

On officially announcing the route on 20 December, Transport Minister Philip Hammond focused on changes he claimed had been made to appease protestors. But the route seems to have changed very little since amendments were announced in September and, as far as H&H can tell, all the businesses reported as affected in our previous article still will be.

The route will cut through Stoneleigh Park, where the British Equestrian Federation and its member bodies are based, and dissect the cross-country course at Aston-le-Walls and Whitfield point-to-point course.

In a statement Mr Hammond admitted: “High-speed rail has the potential to transform the way Britain works and competes in the 21st century, but I am aware there will be less welcome impacts in some parts of the countryside.

“I hope all the communities affected will play a full part in the consultation process.”

So far over 23,000 people have signed the Stop HS2 petition and opposition has been raised by the UK’s 47 Wildlife Trusts, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, MPs and residents of affected areas.

  • For more information, go to: www.dft.gov.uk and for the campaign against HS2 go to: www.stophs2.org

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (30 December, 2010)