Bascote Heath couple ‘suicidal’ due to HS2

Computer-generated visuals of a high speed train. HS2. For editorial usage only NNL-140326-125435001
Computer-generated visuals of a high speed train. HS2. For editorial usage only NNL-140326-125435001

Pensioners in a Warwickshire village have told of how they have considered suicide due to the stress HS2 has put on their lives.

Pauline and John Hughes live in Bascot Heath near Southam, about 170 metres from the planned site of a tunnel on the route of the high-speed rail line, and have so far failed in their attempts to claim compensation from HS2 despite being unable to sell their house without significantly reducing the price.

The couple are desperate to move near their 42-year-old son Christopher, who lives near High Wycombe and needs regular care because he has a deteriorating arthritic condition, and have concerns about how to provide for their future.

Mr Hughes said: “Both my wife and I think ‘what is the point of going on’. Everything we have worked for has gone. We feel demoralised and degraded and we can’t get any satisfaction from HS2 - the future is bleak.”

The couple, who have had their house on the market for two years and have been told by estate agents the lack of interest is because of HS2, appeared on the BBC’s Inside Out programme on Monday night.

Mrs Hughes told the show’s reporter how she has been unable to sleep, her health has deteriorated and that she had been in a “trough of despair”.

She said: “I’ve felt suicidal a couple of times to the extent where I thought I might do the Dignitas route.”

Mr Hughes added: “It is the first time that we have talked about this to each other - about how depressing the future is and, yes, suicide has entered my head as well.”

The couple will take their case before a select committee at Westminster next year.

This, Mr Hughes has said, will be their “last chance” of receiving any compensation.

Kenilworth mother-of-seven, Vikie Shanks also appeared on the programme.

Her house is 130 metres from the proposed route and the Government is buying some of her land.

But the size of the construction site is not yet known and it is possible the family’s home of more than 20 years will need to be demolished.

Her children told the reporter how the idea of this is unbearable as the house is a connection to their late father Paul who died seven years ago.

Mrs Shanks’ daughter Lorie-Lanie, who is one of six of the Shanks siblings who have autism, said: “I can’t describe how difficult I’m going to find it. I don’t even like thinking about it, it makes me want to cry because I can’t understand.

“It does raise anxiety, it does raise depression.”

The family will be financially compensated if the house is knocked down but Mrs Shanks said she is more concerned about the health of her children, she said: “I wouldn’t blame HS2 but it has definitely exacerbated what was already a bad situation.

“The children are on anti-depressants and I truly believe they would not be in the situation they are now without HS2 because they would be settled and secure here.”

Ben Ruse, of HS2, has said that HS2 will bring real economic benefits for communities up and down the country but that the company does recognise the impact on people living close to the line.

He added: “The Government is offering a generous compensation package and we are recruiting now for a Residents Commissioner to help people understand what payments they may be entitled to. We are acutely aware of the need for the compensation process to be efficient, transparent and above all fair.

“HS2 Ltd staff continually meet with local people to discuss the project and a committee of MPs is currently holding hearings with those that are directly affected by the first phase of the route between London and the West Midlands.

“We will be running a series of community information events in the New Year but I urge anyone who has a concern to call our helpdesk on 0207 944 4908 or go through our website hs2.org.uk