HS2 Environmental Statement response by Chiltern Society

  |  Published: Feb 26th 2014

HS2 Environmental Statement 'undermines the entire concept of protected landscapes' says Chiltern Society

26 February 2014 

The HS2 Environmental Statement is little more than a marketing document that does nothing to reduce people's fears about the railway's environmental impact, the Chiltern Society says today.


In a 67,000 word detailed response to the statement, the Society says the current  plan to route HS2 across the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty contravenes the Countryside and Rights of Way Act and pays hardly any regard to the fact that the AONB is a nationally protected landscape.


The Society - a charity with nearly 7,000 members working to promote, conserve and improve the Chilterns - says the plan to dump 12 million tons of spoil on the AONB during construction of the proposed railway "completely undermines the entire concept of protected landscapes in the UK".


It condemns the failure to consider a fully bored tunnel under the entire Chilterns AONB or to consider alternative routes avoiding the AONB. It also expresses concern over the failure to conduct a full geological survey on the route in view of the potential threat to water supplies and water courses. The Chilterns/Colne Valley region supplies around a fifth of London's drinking water.


John Gladwin, the Society's HS2 representative said: "Despite its enormous length and complexity the Environmental Statement is highly unsatisfactory if it is meant to answer people's questions about the environmental impact of HS2 and reduce their fears by proposing meaningful mitigation measures. It fails on all counts.


"It often reads like a marketing document rather than an independent examination… a classic case of spin over substance.


"All of the mitigation measures are proposals: there are no commitments. The statement is full of vague and woolly comments like 'measures will be taken where practicable' or 'where reasonably practicable'.


"There is not a single word in this 50,000 page Environmental Statement that offers any reassurance to the public whatsoever. It includes many basic errors, downplays the historical, geological and woodland importance of the Chilterns and shows no understanding of how the many small communities in the Chilterns area live and work."


The Society condemns the failure of HS2 to properly assess alternative routes for the railway which do not cross the AONB, especially as priorities for HS2 have changed since the idea was first introduced five years ago.


Mr Gladwin said: "In 2009 the Government laid down 'absolute requirements' that HS2 should be able to link to Heathrow and enable trains to travel up to 250mph. This almost inevitably led to a suggested route across the Chilterns. Since then the Government has moved the goalposts. Speed and a Heathrow link are no longer top priorities; instead increased capacity and better connections with the north are being emphasised. This no longer means the Chilterns needs to be crossed."


A summary of the Society's response, together with a full version, can be found on the Chiltern Society website www.chilternsociety.org.uk

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