HS2 phase one Environment Statement - our response
Latest update 18.03.2014 10:47
We have recently submitted a response to the HS2 Phase One Formal Environment Statement which identifies the environmental effects from building and operating the railway.
While the Environment Statement recognises the adverse effects the route from London to Birmingham has on Hartwell House near Aylesbury, it rejected our proposals for how HS2 could better fit into the landscape and the land bridge.
Plans outlined in the Environment Statement do not provide an adequate solution to the noise, landscape and cultural heritage impacts from the railway.
Prevention of these problems can be easily achieved and HS2 have also recognised the land bridge proposal is technically feasible through building embankments either side of the track, then placing a lid on top with vegetation and greenery on top.
Stephen Field, our project officer for HS2, said: 'Our scheme is backed by local people and would in effect, reduce the visual and noise impacts of the railway, improve the historic environment, improve the amenities enjoyed by many local residents and enhance connections for biodiversity.'
In the statement, HS2 considered that some screen planting and acoustic fencing would be sufficient to reduce the impact of the railway. Our response also notes that according to World Health Organisation guidelines on noise, the noise emitted in these measures would still be classified as ‘moderately annoying’.
Impacts on the Chilterns
Elsewhere, we feel that the Environmental Statement arrives at the fundamentally incorrect conclusion that ‘the project is unlikely to result in any significant adverse effects on the special characteristics of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)’.
Stephen Field continued: 'Placing built structures above ground within the AONB must have such an effect on the characteristics of an AONB. We support an extended bored tunnel for the Chilterns area to significantly reduce the visual impacts of the railway on a special area.'
Finally, we question the assessments of the cumulative effects identified at Calvert, in Buckinghamshire. From an ecological perspective, principally bat foraging, the plans are in need of revision.
A strong consensus exists amongst ecologists that the ‘box like’ structure, as promoted by HS2, to protect Bechstein’s bats is not sufficient and that the evidence base for this needs exploring. The use of this and moveable screens with relocated habitat is an approach entirely rudimental in its thinking and not based upon sound science. We also strongly feel there is a need for an improved design approach for habitat management.
Current HS2 plans are limited in protecting Calvert from the cumulative effects of the railway. While we welcome the proposed mitigation of planted embankments to shield Steeple Claydon, Clavert is largely forgotten. Therefore, a more area-wide designed mitigation is needed.
We are neither for nor against the principle of high speed rail, although it is opposed to the proposed route from London to Birmingham, as it does affect the Chilterns AONB and Grade I listed Hartwell House near Aylesbury.