This week our HS2 Project Team responded to a consultation on the environmental impacts of the West Midlands to Crewe section of the HS2 route (known as Phase 2a), which is due to open in 2027.
The route passes close to Shugborough in Staffordshire, which is a historically unique and protected Grade I-listed house, garden and estate which is part of the nationally important landscape of the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and an important recreational, community and ecological resource. Downs Bank near Stone may also become affected by construction or operation of the HS2 scheme.
The Working Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA) produced by HS2 Ltd presents draft environmental information based on the current stage of design and includes a description of the environment as it is at the moment; an evaluation of the anticipated environmental impacts of the scheme and the measures proposed to avoid or reduce these impacts.
HS2 Ltd says that responses to the consultation will be considered during development of the design of the railway and assessments of its impacts, which will inform the production of the formal EIA Report, an important part of the hybrid Bill expected in Parliament by the end of 2017.
The National Trust welcomes the publication of the Working Draft EIA report for consultation at this early stage of development. This is a key first step to providing meaningful engagement with those affected by the construction or operation of Phase 2a of HS2 in order to improve protection of the environment and places along the route.
At this stage the EIA only contains a limited amount of detail. While some consultation and engagement with specific stakeholders is offered, no formal consultation on the overall EIA is proposed until the Bill is deposited. The overall effect of this could hinder rather than aid meaningful engagement with the public and other interested parties and so we recommend that an additional draft EIA is published for consultation prior to Bill deposit.
While some measures to avoid and reduce impacts are shown in the EIA it is clear that mitigation is still under development and will continue to be developed. We welcome the intention for opportunities for mitigation beyond that described in the draft and formal EIA reports to be considered as part of the detailed design process.
We do have concerns about wider landscape and ecological effects of this section of route, and would welcome HS2 Ltd’s assessment of these at a landscape scale.
Specific areas, all of which relate to Shugborough and its surrounding landscape, which are insufficiently developed in the Working Draft EIA include:
- assessment of noise impacts on cultural heritage;
- assessment of noise impacts on tranquillity as a landscape resource;
- the methodology for the approach to historic landscape;
- assessment of off-route and cumulative effects including the consequences of changing rail traffic on the existing West Coast Mainline south of Crewe;
- field work to inform the ecology and biodiversity assessments;
- photomontages to support the LVIA;
- Zones of Theoretical Visibility to support the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment; and
- quantitative assessment of traffic effects.
We expect to be consulted on the development of the above areas and intend to submit further responses to consultations by Government and HS2 Ltd covering Phase 2a and the rest of the planned HS2 scheme, as it develops.
We remain committed to engagement with HS2 Ltd, and Government, in order to deliver the best possible outcomes through mitigation and design for the impacts of the train line and its associated construction impacts.