Briefing Note on the High-Speed Rail Link from the Battlefields Trust

28 March 2010

The Battlefields Trust has been paying particular attention to the recent government announcement on the route of a high speed rail link between Euston and Birmingham because it seems to impact on the site of one of the battles in the Wars of the Roses (Edgcote, 1469, in Northamptonshire).

This battle initiated the phase of the Wars when Warwick the Kingmaker restored Henry VI to the throne. The defeat of Edward IV’s army here led to his being captured shortly afterwards. The Trust wants to flag up some general issues arising from this for all heritage bodies, and seek some common ground, because it seems unlikely that this battlefield is going to be the only heritage asset on the route. At the risk of stating the obvious, the very necessary first step is that all the affected heritage assets of whatever type need to be identified and correlated. This is to avoid developers picking them off one by one on the grounds that no single one in isolation might rate serious consideration in the current planning regime. These assets should be identified for us all in a route-wide Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) which will include an extensive heritage and archaeology chapter. The EIS should cover everything from castles to badger setts, up to 5km either site of the proposed route. The heritage bodies who find they have an interest in the route should try to engage with the consultancy firm that carries out the EIS to try to ensure that they take account of our specialist expertise when it is compiled, and that we have a chance to comment on its conclusions. Again it may seem obvious, but we need to ensure that no tricks are missed in terms of it being essential for us – rather than the consultant alone - to define exactly what the heritage assets concerned are, where they are and what their importance is. This is probably more of a problem for medieval battles than for 20th century buildings, but a failure to identify a unique feature - whatever the type of asset - could have regrettable consequences. What is obvious to a local expert may not be apparent to a developer hundreds of miles away. Should heritage bodies take a NIMBY and Luddite view or seek to engage in the process? The Battlefields Trust suggests being positive and hoping to gain whatever advantage there might be, even if the asset/s cannot wholly be protected at the end of the day. Opposing a generic type of development in the abstract and wherever it is proposed seems a path leading nowhere - although there are plenty of people who have urged this course in other contexts. We would very much like to share experience and thoughts about the route of the line and work with other interested HA members.

The Battlefields Resource Centre