National Trust’s briefing on the second reading of the HS2 Bill

We recently submitted a briefing note to MPs prior to the second reading of the HS2 Bill later today. It can be viewed here.

Second reading is the last chance for MPs to vote on the principle of the Bill, i.e. that a high speed railway should be built from London to Birmingham with stations at Euston and Curzon Street.

The National Trust has been engaging with the development of HS2 so that, if it is to go ahead, it’s built to exemplary design and environmental standards. We have been particularly focused on where the proposed line passes close to the precious places we look after for the nation but we have also engaged on wider issues like the standing of the environmental statement and the consideration given to heritage assets in development of the proposed route. 

After Second Reading has been completed (presuming the Bill is passed) the Commons can then consider making “instructions” to the Select Committee that will be established to consider specific issues in relation to the Bill and to hear petitions.

We support the Environmental Audit Committee amendment to the Instructions to be given to the select committee examining HS2 petitions to require it to explicitly consider the environmental impacts of HS2.

Here are the highlights from our briefing:

 

Environmental

National Trust welcomes recommendations made from the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) report:

  • The Government should aim higher than the objective of no net biodiversity loss (to offset damage to the environment in one location by enhancing the environment elsewhere) .
  • A separate ring-fenced budget be set up for environmental safeguards and compensation to ensure HS2 doesn’t cut corners at the expense of the environment.

Landscape-scale thinking

  • The current proposals concentrate only on delivering a railway line and don’t look at the planning areas in relation with each other, for example the relationship between ‘track bed’ and ‘hydrology’.
  • There is an opportunity to identify strategies, ways of working together with other infrastructure projects and landscape policies that could deliver benefits beyond, just, a railway line and may achieve cost benefits.

Lessons from HS1

These are some aspects of HS1 that were beneficial to communities which could be adopted by HS2.

  • Some local authorities were given financial support to deal with the construction impacts from the railway- i.e. hiring more county archaeologists ahead of construction.
  • HS1 also established a ‘Rail Link Countryside Initiative’, which had an initial funding of £2m from Channel Tunnel Rail Link and was run as an independent charity to promote, support, co-ordinate and encourage projects that enhance the landscape, ecology and heritage of the area affected by HS1.

Phase one site specific concerns:

  • Hartwell House, near AylesburyHS2 will pass close to the Grade 1 listed building (now used as a hotel) and the surrounding Grade II listed landscape. HS2 have denied the National Trust’s proposition of a ‘land-bridge’ which would reduce the noise, visual and environmental impact on Hartwell.
  • The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty / Coombe HillThe extent of the impact of the rail if it runs above ground through the Chilterns AONB justifies the need for an extended bored tunnel.
  • Claydon House in BuckinghamshireGrade 1 listed building and grade II listed landscape. There is no interaction between HS2 and non-HS2 projects already in development (the East West Rail Link and the Energy from Waste plant)
  • Waddesdon Estate, near AylesburyThe rail passes in close proximity to the grade I listed manor within a Grade I historic landscape

It is worth noting the National Trust is neither for nor against HS2 in principle but our view is that if it is to go ahead, then it should be built to the highest design and environmental standards.

 

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