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Mr. Pickles: There is some merit in that suggestion, but the point made by the hon. Member for Dagenham about the southern route, which would move it more naturally into the Thames Gateway, also had merit. Rather than wasting money extending the line from Stratford up to Shenfield, why not release that money and place Crossrail where there will be significant growth?

Now that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire and I are in agreement, I shall disagree violently with him on Superlink. I had hoped that my instruction to the Committee would not allow the flight of fancy represented by Superlink to distract the Committee. My constituents are not impressed by Superlink's desire to smash two new railway lines through the gently undulating Essex countryside. I hope that my hon. Friend will give the same consideration to that beautiful countryside as he gives to Brunel's marvellous bridges. Those two new lines would disturb the villages of Lambourne and Abridge to the west, and Navestock, Blackmore, Hook End, Swallows Cross and Mountnessing in the east.

Perhaps I should declare an interest. Although Superlink tells me that my property will not be affected, I have to say that a close examination of that enormous red line on its plans seems to reveal that Superlink will go right through Mrs. Pickles' and my kitchen door, so hon. Members will understand why I am not exactly happy with the idea. What Superlink airily dismisses as open field is my constituents' precious green belt. My constituents are even less impressed by Superlink's patrician refusal to publish an exact route. Any organisation that shows such disdain for the public forfeits the right to be taken seriously.

The Secretary of State made great play of the necessity for private rights to be considered by the Select Committee. There are a number of problems with the
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environmental impact assessment, which has, perhaps inadvertently, misled some of my constituents. I want to make one narrow point on this issue, and I would like one of my constituents to speak for the rest. My constituent, Mr. Cloke, lives at 15 Herington Grove, and although his house is shown as being likely to be affected by significant adverse noise impact, it does not qualify for noise insulation. Nos. 11 and 17 Herington Grove do qualify, however. No. 17 is interesting because it is not a building but part of the garden of No. 15, which does not qualify.

When my constituent contacted Crossrail's helpdesk, he was told

To make the assessment only when construction commences would be contrary to the noise and vibration mitigation scheme. It also seems completely pointless. Once the construction has started, the noise, disruption and vibration will also have started. Mr. Cloke rightly asks:

I would ask the Select Committee, when it is considering the private rights, to look at this aspect of the scheme as a matter of urgency. A number of my constituents have thumbed their way through the environmental report and decided either that they have nothing to worry about or that they have something to worry about. Either way, however, this is just an indicative scheme, and that is not a sensible path for either the House or Crossrail to pursue.

7.59 pm

Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): I am grateful for the opportunity to address the House on this vital issue, which affects my constituency particularly. It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles), whose views on Crossrail and its effects on our side of London and into Essex I endorse completely.

You will be aware, Madam Deputy Speaker, that in the previous Parliament I presented a petition of some 2,302 signatures, collected by me and members of the Crossrail action group based in my constituency. We have deep concerns regarding all the proposals affecting Romford by Cross London Rail Links Ltd. The aim of that extensive petition was not to prevent the betterment of public transport services in London and the south-east, nor to halt Crossrail's plans completely, but to try to encourage Cross London Rail Links Ltd. and the Department for Transport to reconsider some of their proposals for Romford, which in my view will have a devastating impact on the local community and disrupt the lives of many people there. I am sorry to say that, even though that petition was presented to Crossrail representatives and to the door of No.10 Downing street, neither Ministers nor Crossrail have taken heed of my constituents' concerns. I sincerely hope that that will change as the Bill proceeds to Committee.

As you might expect, Madam Deputy Speaker, my speech today will be devoted almost entirely to specific issues facing my constituency as a result of the Crossrail
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Bill. Speaking as both the local Member of Parliament and a local resident, I back my constituents wholeheartedly in their campaign against what can only be described as outrageous proposals for our local area, particularly affecting the communities of Crowlands—the district of Romford between the London road and Crow lane—Rush Green and Gidea Park. Crossrail proposes to construct a 24-hour maintenance depot and sidings in those highly populated residential areas of Romford.

Mr. Slaughter: Whether the hon. Gentleman wishes to have a depot in his constituency is entirely a matter for him, but I wonder why he wishes that it was going to be in my constituency, as I gather that he does from questions that he has asked. Crossrail had, I think, 42 options for the depot and chose Romford. He seems keen for it to be sited in Shepherd's Bush.

Andrew Rosindell: I am keen that it goes in the location that will cause the least disruption to people's lives, which certainly is not Romford. I accept that other locations might also be contentious and that needs to be examined closely in the Select Committee. Wherever Crossrail finally decides to place its depot, if the Bill goes through, I hope that it will not devastate people's lives as is currently proposed in my constituency of Romford.

The depot proposed in Romford is set to be approximately 2.5 km in length, running through both the Romford Town and Brooklands wards. Railway sidings and an access route for vehicles are to be constructed in Squirrel's Heath ward, also in my constituency. The proposal for a depot in central Romford will undoubtedly have the greatest impact on the lives of local people, taking away playing fields and open spaces and generating a vast amount of noise and pollution, and it is likely to turn a fairly quiet residential area of Romford into something like an industrial site. No way, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Let me take you, Madam Deputy Speaker, on a journey from west to east of the proposed Romford construction works, starting from the access tracks to be placed on the Westlands playing fields, an area of green belt land often used by local community groups, as well as the adjoining St. Edwards's Church of England comprehensive school and sixth-form college. Understandably, the school strongly opposes Crossrail's proposals, which would lead to the immediate loss of sporting facilities on Westlands playing fields and 50 per cent. of its own sports area, into which much investment is currently going, not to mention the overall long-term impact on the school if it is to be situated adjacent to a large Crossrail work site, with all the associated noise, dust, disturbance and congestion.

A proportion of the land equal to approximately two thirds of the Westlands playing fields is to be used temporarily as a Crossrail work site, depriving local children and residents of its use for about four years and eight months, including one year and nine months of enabling works. The Westlands playing fields are a key recreational facility in the affected area and are also used by the constituents of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Jon Cruddas). The Romford constituency also has lots of other green space and park land, most notably Oldchurch park, which is now being used to build a new hospital. Out of a total of 13 sports pitches on the fields, eight will be lost temporarily, and three permanently.
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Residents understandably feel that, once the fields have been reinstated, if it proves to be the case that local sports teams have relocated, the local authority will seize the opportunity to show those fields as surplus to requirement and sell the remaining land for development in accordance with guidelines set out by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

The Government claim to put children first and have expressed concern over the number of obese children in Britain today. Perhaps the Minister can tell me how children in Romford are supposed to exercise without such recreational facilities as playing fields. That issue has also been highlighted by Sport England. To compound the loss, the disruption, including the arrival and departure of as many as 10 construction lorries a day, is due to last a child's whole secondary school life and will span 16 to 20 sets of public examinations overall, ranging from key stage 3 standard assessment tests to A-levels. We are all aware of the stress that children face at the time of examinations, and to add such distraction is nothing less than irresponsible from a Government who are supposedly concerned with the future of our younger generation. Not only will the use of the green belt land be detrimental to schoolchildren, patrons and residents, but the ecology of the area will be seriously affected.

The adjacent land known locally as Westlands Rough is the last remaining field of the Thames Chase to be left untouched within the London borough of Havering. To lose that green belt site would deprive the local community of the enjoyment and education of observing many species of wildlife and fauna, as well as taking away an area that many people use and enjoy for taking their dogs for walks. My Staffordshire bull terrier, Buster, who is well known to many Members, will be devastated if this treasured area of green space is wrecked by Crossrail's plans. Some species found on the site are of high conservation priority and are all unique to this part of the London borough of Havering. Such a site cannot be replaced.

The dive-under from Westlands playing fields will bring trains from north to south of the Great Eastern main railway line, causing prolonged noise to residents in that area from slow-moving trains 24 hours a day, and particularly throughout the night and early morning when they will either go in for maintenance or leave ready for the morning rush. That will affect local residents on both sides of the main line. An area to the south of Crow lane is to be used as a work site and adjoins many residential properties. That is approximately 4 acres of green belt land that forms part of the Dagenham corridor—the barrier between the London boroughs of Havering and of Barking and Dagenham. In addition, a new bridge to carry Crossrail would have to be built over a local road on the south side of the line after the underpass. Again, that would cause major disruption, with road levels perhaps needing to be altered. The lengthening of the walkway due to the additional bridge will have negative effects for pedestrians, a high proportion of whom are schoolchildren of both primary and secondary school age.

Yet another public worry is the loss of public recreation ground as a result of disruption in an area known as Jutsums park. A major gas main is being rerouted. Moreover, there will be a loss of established
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trees and plants whose planting was paid for and carried out by the local community. Crossrail itself admits that users of Jutsums park will be

during construction, which will make it very unpleasant to use. The disruption of the parkland is in addition to the permanent loss of Oldchurch park playing fields, less than a mile away.

Continual erosion of those facilities will leave the youth of the area little recreational space that is free of charge. That means that we are in danger of seeing more gangs of youths congregating on street corners with nothing to do, especially in the town centre. As might be expected, my constituents and I are deeply concerned. We fear that the knock-on effect of Crossrail's proposals could be an increase in youth crime in Romford.

Crossrail has also proposed the building of a service road between Jutsums lane and the depot building towards the eastern end of the construction works. The road is to be built on the embankment and will run approximately 4 m from the ground. Vehicles will thus be level with the upstairs windows of people's homes. Inevitably, that will cause even more disturbance and invasion of privacy. The depot will take five or six years to build, which means at least six years of constant disruption, congestion, dirt, noise pollution and light pollution.

Those negative factors will affect residents, some of whose homes are about 100 m from the proposed depot site. The Higginses, with their small children, are an example. Not only will access to the road be less than 10 m from the side wall of their house but the proposed maintenance depot will be 100 m from the bottom of their garden. When they bought their home 20 years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Higgins were well aware of the existing railway line, but they did not expect to live next door to a 24-hour maintenance depot.

The plans affect my constituents throughout Romford. Local roads will become more congested, with a plethora of construction traffic. Vehicles travelling to service the depot, both during and after construction, will journey down residential roads, not only damaging roads but putting pedestrians at risk. The depot will also dramatically change the skyline of the area, dominating the view from many residential properties. It is to be built on land that has already been raised by between 3 and 4 m, to make it level with the existing railway line.

According to the requirements of the Greater London assembly biodiversity document, recognised by the Government as being in league with Agenda 21, brownfield land unused for human purposes that has reverted to its natural state can be classified as greenfield. The Crossrail action group and I believe that that applies to the Romford gasworks land that is to be used for the depot development. The depot itself will be 12 m high, which means an overall height of 15 to 16 m—around double the height of the average house in the area.

In answer to a written question from me, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), confirmed that the depot would be operational 24 hours a day. With lighting conducive
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to worker safety and high-pressure commercial washing taking place throughout the night, residents are sadly unlikely to have a night's peace if the depot development proceeds. Moreover, a parcel of land next to the depot area and to the rear of the residential properties is to be used as a route control centre and a large car park. Although the facility itself may not be particularly noisy, residents fear that further disruption will accompany shift changes during the night. The facility does not form part of the depot and can be located anywhere along the route. The construction of the depot will necessitate the removal of a gas holder, which will leave residents exposed to associated contamination. I do not consider it justifiable for the lives of residents, some of whom have lived in their homes for more than 60 years, to be disrupted to such a dreadful extent.

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