Autumn 2019 update on our HS2 work
The National Trust has been engaged on HS2 for almost a decade and is committed to ensuring that HS2 leaves a positive legacy for people, special places and wildlife. Sarah and Steve from the HS2 team update us on some of the Trust’s recent work.
HS2 work in sensitive locations must be paused
We’ve written to the Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, to request a pause to High Speed 2 construction activity in sensitive locations until there is greater certainty over whether the railway project will continue.
The review of HS2 chaired by Douglas Oakervee is due to report this Autumn but will likely be delayed as a result of the General Election.
The National Trust welcomes the recent decision by Government to defer work at all 11 ancient woodland sites on Phase 1 of the route until the Oakervee Review is concluded. Permanent harm must also be avoided in sensitive locations such as important habitats, designated landscapes and listed buildings until the Oakervee Review has presented its findings and before Government responds to the outcome of the review.
In 2015 we worked hard to secure legal agreements with HS2 Ltd regarding design of the route at Hartwell House and other places we care for in Buckinghamshire. While we are pleased that HS2 Ltd have now provided assurances that no irreversible works will be undertaken at Hartwell House it is important that unnecessary harm to our nation’s built and natural heritage up and down the proposed route does not take place while the Government considers whether to proceed with HS2.
As per our legal agreements with HS2 Ltd the National Trust and our partners at impacted properties continue to actively engage with the HS2 Phase 1 interface team and their contractors. As with many others affected by the scheme we are awaiting further details about the construction programme in Buckinghamshire for the coming years to allow us to prepare accordingly. We want to ensure that our places remain accessible and enjoyable to visitors, residents, volunteers and staff.
Our proactive approach extends beyond Phase 1. For all phases, we continue to invest significant time, effort and expertise in responding to the planning of HS2. We are scrutinising the design in detail and also identifying opportunities for improvement.
Whilst the Oakervee Review is underway we continue our work, not missing any opportunities to try to positively influence this major infrastructure project.
Phase 2b Consultations
In December 2018 we submitted our largest ever consultation response to the Phase 2b Working Draft Environmental Statement consultation. This response included detailed comments about impacts at Hardwick, Nostell, Dunham Massey, Tatton Park, and on route wide HS2 policies such as their Green Corridor Strategy.
More recently, this summer HS2 Ltd held consultation on key proposed changes to the design of Phase 2b. The consultation included proposals to help facilitate the construction of Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and which would allow NPR trains to use the HS2 route. The proposals in the consultation – known as ‘passive provision’ – are for sections of earthworks or structures to be built by HS2, instead of NPR building these at a later date.
NPR is being promoted by Transport for the North (a sub-national transport body covering the north of England) and includes proposals for a new Liverpool to Manchester train route. It is passive provision for this route which is of most relevance to the National Trust at this stage due to likely additional impacts on the surrounds of Tatton Park.
Tatton Park, managed and financed on our behalf by Cheshire East Council, is less than 1 kilometre to the south of the Manchester Spur of HS2. It is one of the most popular attractions in the north west welcoming 850,000 visitors per year, with an estimated further 250,000 enjoying the park for free as a popular green space close to several urban centres. Approximately 5km to the north west of Tatton is Dunham Massey, another special National Trust property which will be directly impacted by HS2.
The area between Dunham Massey and Tatton Park is under immense pressure from HS2 infrastructure, Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) proposals, existing motorways and other development. These features create a significant amount of severance and disruption for people and wildlife travelling across the landscape. This is a challenge to which the Trust is currently seeking a solution as with the right planning these projects could be used as opportunities to ensure permanent links between green spaces for people and nature are restored or created.
Our consultation response explained that whilst the National Trust welcomes in principle an improved sustainable transport network in the north of England, and recognises the support for NPR, the passive provision junctions in this consultation will introduce new earthworks and structures to an already pressured landscape. We are concerned about the cumulative impacts of NPR and HS2 on the local environment and communities, including Ashley. We require further detail about how these impacts will be assessed and mitigated. It is our concern that they will fall between the gaps of both schemes, and lead to a piecemeal approach to mitigation
Our response also requested further information about the proposed new temporary construction railhead and permanent maintenance facility at Ashely. The consultation refers to additional construction vehicles required during the construction of these facilities and we are concerned about the impact on the local community and the ability to access Tatton Park, especially during major events held throughout the year. We seek clarification from HS2 Ltd about the level of additional impacts on the road network and encourage close engagement with us and Cheshire East Council on this matter
HS2 Ltd is due to deposit the Phase 2b bill in Parliament and consult on the final Environmental Statement in June 2020. Should they be accepted by the Secretary of State for Transport, the above proposals will be included in these final plans.
Partnership working to deliver lasting benefit in Staffordshire
In 2018 we secured a number of commitments from HS2 Ltd following our concerns about the impact of the railway line on our Shugborough estate and the surrounding landscape which included establishing a Group with a £1.5 million fund for environmental enhancement measures in an area around the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Staffordshire.
We continue to work in partnership with several stakeholders, including Staffordshire County Council, Natural England and the Canal & River Trust, as the ‘Trent-Sow Parklands and Cannock Chase AONB HS2 Group’ to assess the impact of HS2 on the area. With the support of Land Use Consultants, design principles are being developed for HS2’s principal contractor to apply to its design of key features in this sensitive environment.
The Group is also in the process of reaching out beyond its own membership to those with a stake in the local landscape and is receiving expressions of interest for its Environmental Enhancement fund which address the themes of Landscape, Historic Environment, Biodiversity, Access and Connectivity, and Community.