UPDATED: Church warns over HS2 grave disruption

How the HS2 line might look
How the HS2 line might look

Church of England leaders have expressed fears that graves along the HS2 route will not be moved respectfully.

The Archbishops’ Council has submitted a petition on the HS2 bill which outlines concerns about the treatment of burial grounds and human remains.

To build the high speed line thousands of exhumations will have to be carried out, including the clearing of 2,600 graves at the old St Mary’s Church site in Stoke Mandeville.

A spokesman said: “In terms of opposition the C of E is not opposing HS2 per se, rather we are petitioning for a technical change to the bill, ie we are opposing the bill in its present, in a clause which can be found in other legislation relating to development and has been left out of this bill.”

The council is concerned that it will be difficult for planners to judge the amount of time and money needed to deal with the human remains properly.

An HS2 spokesman said: “As it has said, the Church of England is not opposed to HS2 but has submitted a petition to find out more about this specific issue. HS2 will require the removal of bodies from three burial grounds. This will be done in close discussion with the Church and HS2 Ltd will ensure that the affected remains are treated with dignity, respect and care.

“As the three burial grounds have been closed to burial for more than 100 years, we will be working with English Heritage, the relevant local authority, the Church of England and (where applicable) the appropriate religious authority or the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

“HS2 Ltd will be develop a ‘Burial Grounds, Human Remains and Monuments Procedure’ to implement the legal requirements of the Bill.”