Anti-HS2 petition: Church of England oppose plans to dig up and relocate thousands of dead bodies for train line

The Church of England have launched a petition against the government’s proposed £43billion high-speed train line because the remains of thousands of bodies will have to be dug up and relocated.

The Archbishops’ Council has warning that current plans for constructing the HS2 line between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds mean human remains will not be treated ‘in a decent and reverent manner’.

The Archbishops’ Council, which is led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, has said changes need to be made to the Bill to give greater protection to remains which will have to be dug up along the route.

In a ‘humble petition’ to the House of Commons, the Council said construction authorised by the Bill will involve the destruction of three burial grounds consecrated for the burial of the dead in accordance with the rites of the Church of England.

“This is inconsistent with the approach taken in other legislation which provides for the compulsory acquisition of land and its use for statutory purposes,” the petition said.

“Your petitioners therefore humbly pray your Honourable House that the Bill may not be allowed to pass into law as it now stands.”

Provisions in the Bill do not do enough to ensure that during and after the removal of remains they are treated in a decent and reverent manner or that they are subsequently reinterred in consecrated land, the petition says.

The Coucil also argue the Bill does not make adequate provision to ensure that any monuments which are removed are disposed of in a suitable manner.

The Church join a host of high-profile petitioners who have lobbied Parliament to stop the controversial scheme going ahead under the current proposals.

These include the Princess of Wales and Lord Rothschild, who both own land along the route.

Others include Earl Spencer, brother of the late Diana, Nicholas and Alice van Cutsem, close friends of the Duke of Cambridge, and Lord Richard Wellesley, a descendant of the Duke of Wellington.

They say the link will cut through their estates, cause noise and damage areas of outstanding natural beauty.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Throughout the development of HS2, burial grounds have been avoided as far as practicable.

“We understand that the removal of human remains to enable HS2 to progress is a sensitive and emotive issue, which is why this issue is specifically dealt with in the Hybrid Bill and why HS2 Ltd recently published a paper setting out how it would deal with affected burial sites along the route.

“Though the affected burial sites at Euston, Stoke Mandeville and Birmingham have not been in use for more than 100 years, HS2 Ltd will ensure that the affected remains are treated with dignity, respect and care.”

Image courtesy of Billy Hathorn, with thanks.

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