Earlier this month we submitted evidence to the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) inquiry into HS2 and the environment.
Our evidence concerns these main areas:
1. The lack of technical/professional review of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) meaning the methodology should be reassessed
Whilst HS2 claim that ‘professional judgement has been used’ in the Environment Statement, it is purely up to a non-technical/professional reader to accept this judgement, in this case Parliament or planning authorities.
As no formal mechanism currently exists for peer review or a technical panel that can arrive at a professional consensus, we have asked for a reassessment of the EIA process.
2. Technical dispute concerning HS2’s plans to conserve wildlife
We and many others have questioned the lack of scientific rigour in the chosen strategy to protect Bechstein’s bats (one of the UK’s rarest mammals).
Much of the objections to these issues have already been brought up in our response to Environment Statement which can be viewed here
We have asked the committee to consider this technical dispute before the ES is handed to the decision maker.
3. HS2’s objective for biodiversity offsetting should be clarified.
HS2’s own sustainability policy (as published by HS2 in April 2013) sets out a commitment to achieving ‘no net loss for biodiversity’ across the project.
However, it is entirely impossible for a large infrastructure project such as HS2 to claim that it can achieve no impact on biodiversity. The railway would affect areas such as:
- the loss of irreplaceable habitats and species
- fragmentation of sites
- severance of ecological corridors / networks
- noise and visual disturbance
- barrier effects to movement of fauna
- changes in water quality
- mortality as a result of collision
These impacts fall outside the realms of biodiversity offsetting and therefore our evidence has demanded that ‘The precise role of offsetting in a project of this magnitude should be clarified.’
4. Finally, we have suggested a revision of HS2’s aspiration for ‘no net loss for biodiversity’
Merely striving to offset the impact of development encourages a perception that our wildlife is ‘disposable, tradable and replaceable’.
Instead, the HS2 should aspire to achieve a net gain for biodiversity as a consequence of the development.