The Church of England has joined opponents of the Government's HS2 proposals, warning that current plans for constructing the line 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, says there must be changes to give greater protection to remains which have to be exhumed along the route. Words and photo: Press Association.
In a "humble petition" to the House of Commons, the Council says that works authorised by the Bill to bring in the project 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 and the removal of human remains and monuments from them.
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.
Nor do the provisions make adequate provision to ensure that any monuments that are removed are disposed of in a suitable manner, it adds.
The petition says: "This is inconsistent with the approach taken in other legislation which provides for the compulsory acquisition of land and its use for statutory purposes."
And it concludes: "Your petitioners therefore humbly pray your Honourable House that the Bill may not be allowed to pass into law as it now stands."
Other high-profile petitioners have also lobbied Parliament to stop the controversial scheme in its current form.
They include Earl Spencer, brother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and Lord Rothschild, who both own land along the route.
Others include Nicholas and Alice van Cutsem, close friends of the Duke of Cambridge, and Lord Richard Wellesley, a descendant of the Duke of Wellington.
They have complained that 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."
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