The Tunnel Line to France: Villagers' fears are realised as axe falls: After seven years, stations and sections of 68-mile rail route still await a final decision

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The Independent Online
THE AXE poised over the heads of Boxley villagers finally fell yesterday. Locals greeted the long-feared news that their beautiful Kent village was to be blighted by the Channel tunnel rail link with a mixture of resignation and despair, writes Marianne Macdonald.

Sir John Best-Shaw used to own most of Boxley, which inspired Tennyson and boasts a 15th-century church and a 12th-century inn. Now the railway line will be built 350 yards from his front door, destroying the tranquillity surrounding the mellow stone house.

'I'm wanting to put my house on the market but the line comes very near it,' he said. 'One mustn't grumble . . . but I do find it so annoying that the Government have gone back on their word after saying the line would run underground.'

The Dalys bought Parsonage Farmhouse, their breathtakingly beautiful Tudor house, last year.

'In all honesty we thought the line probably would go ahead because this was one of the properties bought by BR from a previous resident,' Sara Daly, 39, admitted. 'But we fell in love with the house and we couldn't have afforded it apart from the railway.'

Other villagers, who have been trying to move out without success, were less sanguine. Boxley is now rated so low by estate agents that residents have had to pay to have their details written up. Brian Avery, 52, and his wife Marilyn, 42, own Park House, an imposing country property worth pounds 600,000 six years ago. Now it is unsaleable: the railway line will cut across their garden.

They were offered pounds 550,000 by BR for their house but turned it down because it would not buy anything comparable. Mr Avery admits: 'When we made the decision to stay, financial considerations went out of the window.'

The Averys will not vote Conservative again, nor, when they next visit France, do they plan to use the Channel tunnel.

(Photograph omitted)