Transplant operation, part 2

(… continued from Transplant operation, part 1, posted on 15 Jan 2017).

When he appeared before the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee, the witness for the Woodland Trust, its Senior Conservation Advisor Richard Barnes, was asked two direct questions about his attitude to the use of the translocation of ancient woodland soils to sites of newly created woodland.

The Chairman of the Committee, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, asked him: “Are you saying that translocation is basically a waste of time?” His reply was: “It seems that way” (see footnote 1). Subsequent the Promoter’s Lead Counsel, Tim Mould QC, asked Mr Barnes to confirm that he thought that it was right that the HS2 project “should have translocation as part of its armoury in seeking to address losses of ancient woodland” and he responded with the single word “yes” (see footnote 2).

I suggest that these two responses are not as inconsistent as they might seem. In the absence of any strong evidence that translocation can bring long-lasting improvements to the biodiversity of woodland created to compensate for damage to ancient woodland, the Trust is following the recommendation of Natural England in regarding translocation as a course to be followed when there are “no other options available” (see footnote 3). As the process of seeking better biodiversity protection for HS2 Phase 1 through changes in the hybrid Bill has now been exhausted, and more than thirty hectares of ancient woodland soil is still to be disturbed by the construction of the project, then it is a no-loss strategy to use that “waste” soil to inoculate newly planted woodland.

However, it was apparent that what the Trust was seeking from its appearance before the Lords Select Committee was to ensure that, whatever the chances were of the translocation technique improving the ecological value of the woodland that would be created for the project, those odds should be maximised by employing the best possible practice when carrying out the operation and securing the appropriate level of aftercare for as long as necessary. It is sad to reflect that the Trust appeared to receive no assistance from the Committee in this respect – testimony to this being the total lack of any mention of these aspirations in the Committee’s final report, and a description of the Trust’s comments on translocation as “disparagement” (see footnote 4).

Whilst the Trust was not asking that translocation techniques should not be employed in the HS2 project, Mr Barnes did express concern that translocation should not be “seen as a panacea” and that developers employing the technique should not be able to say “It’s okay to destroy ancient woodland, because we’re going to move the soil, we’re going to move some of the tree stools”. He opined that the use of habitat translocation did not make it “more palatable to destroy an ancient woodland” (see footnote 5). I would go further than this: since no incontrovertible proof appears to be on offer that translocation offers any long-term biodiversity benefits, then the use of the technique should be ignored in any assessment of the biodiversity impacts of the HS2 project.

The other concern that Mr Barnes expressed to the Committee is that concentrating on translocation within a compensation strategy may be diverting resources from possibly more efficient means: as Mr Barnes put it, “if you did other things with the time, effort and resource that goes into translocation it would provide [greater] benefit” (see footnote 6). Although it was not something that Mr Barnes mentioned, a prime candidate for an alternative compensation strategy is the restoration of existing ancient woodland to prime condition, by, for example, felling plantation species, such as conifers planted as commercial timber, and replanting with native broadleaved species.

Restoration is mentioned in the report by Natural England (NE) of the outcome of its inquiry into the HS2 Phase 1 no net loss calculation: NE concludes “that enhancement of ancient woodland is a good lower risk option consistent with good practice” (see footnote 7). A discussion in the NE report indicates that, provided appropriate continuing care is applied, “condition enhancement is effectively instantaneous” with ancient woodland enhancement (see footnote 8).

The NE report indicates that the HS2 Ltd “approach to compensation for unavoidable losses of ancient woodland … includes enhancement of existing ancient woodland elsewhere” (see footnote 9) and this was confirmed to the Committee by Mr Mould (see footnote 10). However, I have to say that, in all the ferreting in HS2 documentation that my self-imposed research regime has dictated, I have not come across any examples where this is being proposed. Perhaps we can expect more clarity on this when the “ancient woodland strategy” document, that Mr Mould referred to (see footnote 11), is published.

The opportunity that the HS2 project could offer to improve some of our ancient woodland is one that I have discussed in the past (see footnote 12) and I promoted one particular example of a wood near to the route of HS2 that appears to be crying out for such treatment (see footnote 13). Unfortunately, HS2 Ltd has displayed not the slightest interest in this proposal, so I very much fear than we can expect a similar indifference to any other opportunities for the restoration of ancient woodland that present themselves.

Footnotes:

  1. See paragraphs 335 and 336 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  2. See paragraphs 475 and 476 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  3. See paragraph 324 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016. The view of Natural England on translocation is recorded in paragraph 6.5.5 of the publication Standing Advice for Ancient Woodland and Veteran Trees, Forestry Commission and Natural England, April 2014. This paragraph, in turn, derives its “measure of last resort” view of translocation from paragraph 7.2 of the paper A Habitats Translocation Policy for Britain, Joint Nature Conservation Committee on behalf of The Countryside Council for Wales, English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage, July 2003.
  4. See paragraph 306 of the publication Special Report of Session 2016-17 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, House of Lords Select committee on the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, 15thDecember 2016. This paragraph also refers, incorrectly, to Mr Barnes being asked whether the Trust “regarded translocation as an unnecessary expense”, since the transcript records no such question being asked. For the precise form of words used in the question that was put to Mr Barnes, see paragraph 475 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rd November 2016.
  5. See paragraph 338 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  6. See paragraph 336 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  7. See paragraph 4.10 in the report Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric, Natural England, November 2016.
  8. See Chapter 4 in Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric.
  9. See paragraph 4.2 in Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric.
  10. See paragraph 397 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  11. See paragraph 504 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  12. See my blog A lesson in environmentalism, part 4 (posted 7 Oct 2013).
  13. See paragraphs 276 and 277 of the transcript of the morning session of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Tuesday 20thJanuary 2015.

Important Note: The record of the proceedings of the HS2 Select Committees from which the quotes reproduced in this blog have been taken are uncorrected transcripts of evidence, which are not yet an approved formal record. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record in such instances, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

Transplant operation, part 1

As long ago as the spring of 2012 I reported the doubts that many environmentalists have of the value of the translocation of ancient woodland soils when employed, as HS2 Ltd proposes, to “inject biodiversity” into woodland newly planted as compensation for ancient woodland lost to development (see footnote 1).

These doubts were explained to the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee early in 2016, when the Woodland Trust, clearly a fount of expert knowledge in matters concerned with woodland of all types, gave evidence in support of its petition (see footnote 2). It appears that despite the care with which the Trust’s expert witness, its Senior Conservation Advisor Richard Barnes, explained to the Committee the Trust’s concerns and requests in connection with the proposed use of this technique for HS2, there is no reference, however slight, to the issue in the Committee’s published reports.

No doubt as a result of this apparent demonstration of indifference by the Commons, the matter was again on the agenda when Mr Barnes took the witness seat in Committee Room 4 to give evidence on behalf of the Trust to the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee. The Trust’s concerns with the proposed utilisation of the translocation of ancient woodland soils were carefully explained to this second parliamentary committee, following the bullet points listed on exhibit A691(12), as follows:

Translocation cannot recreate ancient woodland

This appears to be something on which both the Trust and the Promoter agree (see footnote 3). Mr Barnes referred to it as “a salvage operation … at best, when there’s no other options available”; a viewpoint that he said was shared by Natural England (see footnote 4). But Mr Barnes did indicate a hint of a difference with the Promoter by referring to an exhibit “where they talk about ancient woodland planting in their evidence”, commenting that “unfortunately, that is just not true … you’re not recreating ancient woodland” (see footnote 5) – I have to say, though, that I have been unable to corroborate this point, since all of the published Promoter’s exhibits that I have been able to check clearly distinguish between “ancient woodland” being destroyed and “new woodlands” being created.

It is an engineering operation to move soil and vegetation from one site to another

Mr Barnes referred to a photograph included on exhibit A691(12), which shows a translocation operation in progress with the soil being moved by a large mechanical digger. He spelt out that the “soil is scrapped off by diggers, transported in dumpers, if lucky, straight to the site without any further storage and mixing elsewhere, and then it’s spread out again by diggers”. He contrasted this reality with how one might transplant some bulbs in a garden; carefully with a trowel (see footnote 6).

Translocation has a narrow window of opportunity – this timing should dictate the engineering programme, not vice versa

Mr Barnes emphasised that the time of year when translocation procedures are carried out can affect the degree of success of the operation, referring to what he called “a narrow window of opportunity”. He added that if the operation was to include the transplanting of coppice stools, then this required a different window to the translocation of soil. He noted that there had “been too many projects where we’ve seen that the translocation has just fitted around the engineering and not vice versa, it hasn’t been done at the right time of year” (see footnote 7).

On these last two points, which I regard as issues of translocation methodology, the Promoter’s Lead Counsel, Tim Mould QC, referred Mr Barnes to a letter that had been sent to the Trust by HS2 Ltd a few days before the date of the hearing (see footnote 8). This letter included the wording of an assurance that was proposed by the Promoter that promised “a clear plan and methodology for each area of Ancient Woodland soil to be translocated and that the nominated undertaker would be required to “engage with the Woodland trust in the development of those arrangements”. Unfortunately we didn’t get to hear from Mr Barnes whether this assurance would satisfy the Trust and, in fairness, the Trust hadn’t had much time to consider it – par for the course with HS2 Ltd, I fear.

Translocation is not a proven technique

Mr Barnes told the Committee that, although the translocation of ancient woodland soils had been tried on rail and road transport projects in recent times “there has not been any monitoring or management that has been set out to say what happens if something goes wrong”. He identified as the “best example” as a wood on the A2/M2 link road and widening scheme, where there had been “some reasonable initial results”. But, even here, the Trust had “have not had any further publications or knowledge of surveys being done” and so “don’t know whether any of this habitat has been created or is succeeding” (see footnote 9).

Mr Barnes said that the Trust’s research indicated that “you will get the movement of what we call an ‘inocula’ of some of the soil microbes and fungi and you will get [growth of] certain bulbs and seeds, like bluebells and wood anemones, those ones that will survive the process” (see footnote 10).

Commitment is required from the nominated undertaker to manage and monitor new woodland created with translocated soil in perpetuity

Mr Barnes identified two reasons why it was necessary for new woodland inoculated with translocated soils to be managed and its progress monitored “in perpetuity”. Firstly, he intimated that you couldn’t just leave nature to itself and “you’ll get a good woodland in 50 to 100 years, with some of the things coming forward that were in the original woodland soil translocated”. Secondly, he said that he would “like to see some good science done … on what does happen to ancient woodland soils that are translocated” (see footnote 11).

He told the Committee that this forward commitment “hasn’t happened with the other examples often cited of HS1 or the Channel Tunnel Rail Link” (see footnote 12). It would appear from comments made in the hearing that HS2 intends to do better than this, and that arrangements will be put in place for new woodland to be managed for 50 years (see footnote 13). Whilst Mr Barnes welcomed this as “higher than some other schemes we’ve seen”, it remained his view that “in perpetuity is the ideal solution” and that this was “a possibility through [the use of] conservation covenants” (see footnote 14).

Mr Mould was not, it appears, able to offer Mr Barnes any improvement on 50 years, but did, at least, try to reassure him that things would be done well. He reminded Mr Barnes that there would be an ecological review group, “whose principal purpose is to monitor the performance of mitigation measures once the railway has been constructed and is in operation” – and Mr Barnes confirmed that the Trust had been “invited onto that group” and that this group “will be receiving reports of monitoring as the proposals go forward”. Mr Mould also advised Mr Barnes that Clause 50 of the hybrid Bill enabled the Secretary of State to “impose and to enforce environmental covenants which are positive in nature and thus overcome the usual legal difficulties over securing the performance of positive covenants against successes in title”. The silk added that this provision would help “to address some of the problems that can otherwise arise in maintaining compliance with covenants over a lengthy period of time” (see footnote 15).

(To be concluded …)

Footnotes:

  1. See my blog The answer lies in the soil (posted 8 Mar 2012). For readers not familiar with this technique, I should explain that topsoil removed from a site being excavated within ancient woodland, which will contain seeds, bulbs and microorganisms associated with that woodland, is retained and subsequently spread on the surface of a site where new woodland is being created. The proponents of the technique claim that this enhances the biodiversity of the new woodland.
  2. Reported in my blog Not necessarily a good thing, part 3 (posted 19 Jul 2016).
  3. For example, see the recognition by Promoter’s Counsel recorded in paragraph 416 of the transcript of the morning session of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 3rdFebruary 2016.
  4. See paragraph 324 in the transcript of the morning session of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  5. See paragraph 334 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  6. See paragraph 325 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  7. See paragraph 326 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  8. This letter, dated 18thNovember 2016, is exhibits P5517(1) to P5517(3), inclusive, and may be found on pages 358 to 360 in the Promoter’s bundle for the Woodland Trust hearing.
  9. See paragraph 300 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  10. See paragraph 336 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  11. See paragraphs 330 and 334 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rd November 2016.
  12. See paragraph 328 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  13. For example, see paragraph 331 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  14. See paragraph 332 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  15. See paragraphs 511 to 515 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.

Acknowledgement: Exhibit A691(12) has been extracted from the bundle of evidence submitted to the Lords HS2 Select Committee by the Woodland Trust and published on the website of the Lords HS2 Select Committee.

Important Note: The record of the proceedings of the Lords HS2 Select Committee from which the quotes reproduced in this blog have been taken are uncorrected transcripts of evidence, which are not yet an approved formal record. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record in such instances, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

Some Sites Seem Irreplaceable, part 2

(… continued from Some Sites Seem Irreplaceable, part 1, posted on 7 Jan 2017).

In the oral submission that he gave to the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee on behalf of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT), Matthew Jackson (see footnote 1) provided some welcomed – well welcomed by me, at any rate – clarification of why Natural England (NE) had recommended that sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) should be removed from the HS2 no net loss (NNL) calculation (see footnote 2).

He stressed that removing these protected sites did not mean that “there will be no compensation or no redress for the impacts on those sites”, merely that “they’re not included in a calculation which is given the label of no net loss”. He told the Committee that this point was “absolutely fundamental”: developers should not be able to make the claim that, “I’ve had this impact on a site of special scientific interest, but overall there’s no net loss, so we don’t need to worry about it” (see footnote 3).

Mr Jackson said that implying that SSSIs can be destroyed without a loss to the natural environment “raises a grave threat to the statutory protection for these sites, across the UK” and that this was not just an issue for HS2, but was “about the implications going forwards” (see footnote 4).

Mr Jackson expanded on this theme in response to questions from the Committee (see footnote 5):

“Now, we’re not saying that those loses can’t be mitigated or in some cases, compensated for, and nor are we saying that all the habitats are irreplaceable. The issue is around the designation of those sites. As I said earlier, sites of special scientific interests (sic) are a sort of sample of important sites. Now, if you diminish that sample, the network of sites no longer fulfils the purpose for which they were designated, which was about ensuring the preservation of a sample of our most important sites.”

He added that, when damage is done to a SSSI, you can’t “designate more SSSIs as a result” (see footnote 6).

Lest the Committee had failed to get the point, Mr Jackson spelled out, in the simplest of terms, the principle that the RSWT was “concerned about” (see footnote 7):

“The principle that I was endeavouring to get across was exactly that one that what you lose is part of the designated suite of SSSIs and if you wrap it up in the no net loss calculations, you are presenting it to other developers elsewhere as saying, you can have an impact on one of these sites, but so long as you create some grass and/or plant some woodland elsewhere, you can clam (sic) you’ve having no net loss.”

He added, in equally straightforward terms, that what the RSWT was seeking, and regarded as important, was that “nobody else can bring that sort of presentation to a decision maker, be that a local authority, be that the planning inspectorate, and say, ‘We’re having no net loss on here. We’re affecting this site of special scientific interest, but the net result is no loss to the natural environment’” (see footnote 8).

In order to make her response to Mr Jackson, the Promoter’s Counsel called upon the services of the Environment Director of HS2 Ltd, Peter Miller, as her witness. Mr Miller confirmed that he understood that the “fundamental concern” that the RSWT had expressed was that “by putting SSSIs into that ‘no net loss’ calculation it suggests that biodiversity is tradable” (see footnote 9). He also said that he “can see that people outside of this process may say that it is simply a case of crashing through a SSSI on any occasion, and we’ve come up with a biodiversity response that equals – I don’t know – 10 times the amount of woodland or other ecological response, and that’s good enough” (see footnote 10).

Mr Miller referred to the inevitability that “a [long] linear infrastructure project will, in one way or another, affect some of these [SSSI] sites”, but claimed that HS2 Ltd had “done a good job on that and only three [SSSIs] are directly affected” by HS2 Phase 1 (see footnote 11).

Mr Miller confirmed the rejection by HS2 Ltd of the NE recommendation on SSSIs, stating that he and his employers “still think there are aspects of the SSSIs that could reasonably be accounted for in a biodiversity calculation” (see footnote 12). He signally failed, however, to offer a shred of evidence to support the inclusion of SSSIs in the no net loss calculation. The only conciliatory gesture that he was prepared to make to the RSWT was that the Promoter hasn’t “closed this down by any means” and will “continue that discussion with Natural England” (see footnote 13).

On the face of it Mr Miller’s agreement that the Promoter has “got to get this right going forward”, and his view that “in every case in our response that leads to a further discussion with Natural England; it does not shut this down” (see footnote 14) should be cause for optimism. Nevertheless, any hope that this might give of a move towards following the NE recommendation on SSSIs must be tempered by the outright rejection of that recommendation in the Promoter’s written submissions; a rejection that appears to be supported by the Lords Select Committee (see footnote 15).

Which leaves Mr Jackson – and me, for what it’s worth – still concerned that HS2 is “setting the precedent that you can have an impact on a SSSI and claim you are having no net loss” (see footnote 16).

Footnotes:

  1. Mr Jackson is Head of Conservation Policy and Strategy at the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT). He told the Select Committee that he was representing the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts in view of his expertise in the matters of concern.
  2. The Royal Society of Wildlife Trust’s hearing may be viewed from 10:34hrs in the video and is reported from paragraph 80 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  3. See paragraph 105 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  4. See paragraph 106 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  5. See paragraph 119 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  6. See paragraph 120 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  7. See paragraph 121 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  8. See paragraph 122 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  9. See paragraph 211 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  10. See paragraph 226 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  11. See paragraph 210 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016. I have corrected “non-linear infrastructure project”, as recorded in the transcript, as this is clearly an error when compared with the video record, and conveys a meaning opposite to that intended.
  12. See paragraph 212 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  13. See paragraph 213 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  14. See paragraph 227 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  15. See paragraphs 291 and 292 of the publication Special Report of Session 2016-17 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, House of Lords Select committee on the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, 15thDecember 2016.
  16. See paragraph 165 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.

Important Note: The record of the proceedings of the Lords HS2 Select Committee from which the quotes reproduced in this blog have been taken is an uncorrected transcript of evidence, which is not yet an approved formal record. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record in such instances, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

Some Sites Seem Irreplaceable, part 1

The report of the inquiry that has been carried out by Natural England (NE), at the instigation of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee,  into the HS2 Phase 1 no net loss (NNL) calculation concludes that, for the purposes of biodiversity loss consideration, “protected habitats”, specifically sites of special scientific interest (SSSI), should be treated in the same way as irreplaceable habitats, i.e. “separately to avoid conflation with tradable habitats” (see footnote 1).

Now, it is my understanding that, whilst SSSIs may contain areas of irreplaceable habitat, this categorisation may by no means apply to all habitat within designated SSSIs, nor is irreplaceability of habitat a condition that must be satisfied to warrant the SSSI designation. It is, accordingly, not immediately apparent that SSSIs should be treated in the same way as irreplaceable habitat when considering biodiversity loss.

The NE report provides four grounds on which its conclusion is based.

For the first, the report cites a research paper by seven authors from institutions and organisations world-wide (see footnote 2), claiming that this paper suggests that “protected areas fall within the notion of irreplaceability, and as such are not tradable and, therefore, should not feature in biodiversity metrics” (see footnote 3). I have to say that I can find nothing in the paper to support NE’s claim: as far as I can see, the paper does not address the topic of whether “protected areas”, as it refers to sites such as SSSIs, should be treated as irreplaceable, and is actually concerned with proposing that offsetting money should be used to support the ongoing funding of such sites. Perhaps I am missing something.

The second ground contended in the NE report is that the NE position is “consistent with the Defra metric approach” (see footnote 3), which is supported by citing a Defra document that includes the following statement (see footnote 4):

“We would not normally expect the biodiversity offsetting mechanism to be used on designated sites and species protected under legislation. For such sites, existing policies and procedures will apply.”

Whilst this statement does indeed support the view that protected areas should not feature in biodiversity metrics, it does not explain why and does not specifically endorse regarding protected areas as irreplaceable.

The third ground is the claim that the exclusion of SSSIs from the offsetting metric is consistent “with the European Commission’s approach to NNL, which identifies NNL as a requirement for biodiversity compensation outside that which is covered by EU Directives” (see footnote 3). In this case the reference provided includes the following “preliminary definition of the No Net Loss principle” (see footnote 5):

“that conservation/biodiversity losses in one geographically or otherwise defined area are balanced by a gain elsewhere provided that this principle does not entail any impairment of existing biodiversity as protected by EU nature legislation.”

This citation, which is arguably the most helpful of the three that I have identified thus far, appears to be saying that, when considering biodiversity offsetting, protected areas should be regarded as non-tradeable, in view of the high level of legal protection afforded to them (see footnote 6). It is this factor that appears to be influencing the policy of excluding them from the offsetting metric, rather than any “notion of irreplaceability” – this interpretation also appears to be consistent with the Defra approach reported above.

The final ground offered in the NE report is that its review “has not been able to identify an ecological rationale to support the assumption for including SSSIs in the metric” (see footnote 7). Whilst this verges on opinion rather than evidence, it does add some support to the stance taken by Defra and the EU.

The NE report concludes that the “inclusion [of SSSIs] within the metric presents a risk of conflation and potentially setting an undesirable precedent” (see footnote 7).

The letter that HS2 Ltd sent to the Woodland Trust and The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, which I referred to in Cutting out the old wood, part 1 (posted 10 Dec 2016), rejects the NE recommendation, opining that “the logic of removing SSSI habitat [from the offsetting metric] is not as clear [as is the case for doing so for irreplaceable habitats]”. The HS2 Ltd is stated to be (see footnote 8):

“Whilst irreplaceable habitat within SSSIs will be removed from the [no net loss] calculation, we believe those habitats that are replaceable should remain, in order to continue to account for all losses and gains of the proposed Scheme.”

This offers no further concessions than those given in respect of irreplaceable habitats and, if the interpretation of the NE report that I have given above is correct, entirely misses the point that the recommendation that SSSIs are excluded from the no net loss metric is on the grounds of non-tradability, rather than irreplaceability.

In the light of this fundamental difference between developer and environmentalists, it came as no surprise that the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts chose to raise this topic when it appeared before the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee in November 2016 to have its petition against HS2 heard: but, my report of that hearing will have to wait until my next posting.

(To be concluded …)

Footnotes:

  1. See paragraph 3.20 in the report Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric, Natural England, November 2016.
  2. The paper is Githiru M, King M W, Bauche P, Simon C. Boles J, Rindt C, and Victurine R. Should biodiversity offsets help finance underfunded Protected Areas?, Biological Conservation 191 pp819-826, November 2015.
  3. See paragraph 3.15 in Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric.
  4. See paragraph 9 in the paper Biodiversity Offsetting Pilots. Information note for Local Authorities, Defra, March 2012.
  5. See under the sub-heading Reactions of the other institutions on the webpage No Net Loss, European Commission.
  6. Sadly, this is apparently not true in the case of HS2 and its impacts upon SSSIs.
  7. See paragraph 3.16 in Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric.
  8. See the first paragraph of the section Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in the letter of 22ndNovember 2016 from HS2 Ltd (R Hargreaves) to the Woodland Trust (V Bankes-Price).

Acknowledgement: The HS2 Ltd letter of 22nd November 2016 is exhibits P5696(1) to P5696(7) on pages 362 to 368 in the Promoter’s bundle of evidence submitted to the Lords HS2 Select Committee in connection with the petition submitted by the Woodland Trust.

 

 

Cutting out the old wood, part 7

(… continued from Cutting out the old wood, part 6, posted on 30 Dec 2016).

This blog series, based as it is on the evidence presented by the Woodland Trust to the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee, has concentrated on the way that the HS2 project has treated ancient woodland: it is important to recognise, however, that ancient woodland is not the only irreplaceable habitat encountered in the UK countryside. The publication that HS2 Ltd has produced to explain its no net loss (NNL) calculation metric identifies two additional irreplaceable habitats: mature lowland heathland, and lowland fen (see footnote 1). It is clear from an associated footnote (see footnote 2), however, that HS2 Ltd does not intend this to be a complete listing of irreplaceable habitat types and, indeed, Natural England (NE) tells us that “there is no agreed national list of irreplaceable habitats to use in offsetting projects in England” (see footnote 3).

I find this omission from the national knowledge bank to be surprising, to say the least, given the significance that irreplaceable habitat has to the concept of the preservation of biodiversity. However, the need to rectify matters appears to be recognised, as NE also tells us that (see footnote 4):

“It was a recommendation of the final report of the Defra offsetting pilot that Defra and Natural England produce updated technical guidance on biodiversity offsetting including an updated list of habitats that are defined as ‘irreplaceable’”.

I have, however, been unable to find any indication that an updated list of irreplaceable habitats has been published.

As far as the impacts of HS2 Phase 1 are concerned, NE reports that, whilst there is no lowland heathland affected, there is some lowland fen impinged upon (see footnote 5).

The NE recommendation is “that irreplaceable habitats … notably ancient woodland … are taken out of HS2 NNL metric reporting and published separately” (see footnote 6). The letter that HS2 Ltd sent to the Woodland Trust and The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, which I referred to in part 1, includes confirmation that “HS2 will remove ancient woodland from the metric and account for it separately” (see footnote 7). Elsewhere in the letter, HS2 Ltd agrees that “irreplaceable habitat should be removed from the calculation”, but does not identify any specific proposals to do this, nor are the habitat types named (see footnote 8). I fear that there is a risk of the need to account separately for irreplaceable habitats other than ancient woodland being forgotten, and trust that NE and the environmental NGOs will hold HS2 Ltd feet to the fire to ensure that this does not happen.

As I reported in One myth busted (posted 16 Nov 2016), the NE inquiry into the HS2 NNL calculation was commissioned at the instigation of the House of Commons HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee: this Committee directed that “an independent third party” should carry out such a review and suggested NE as “one possibility” (see footnote 9). As the Government’s statutory advisor on the natural environment, NE is surely well-equipped to carry out this work, and one might have expected the Commons Select Committee, had it still been functioning, to accept the findings of its investigation.

As far as I am aware, the Lords Select Committee can make no claims to expertise in environmental matters and might have been expected to defer to NE’s opinions and recommendations. On the contrary, the Committee takes upon itself to reject two of NE’s principle recommendations: that irreplaceable habitat should be excluded from the NNL calculation; and, that compensation planting for lost ancient woodland should be at a scale of 30:1. The rejection of the former recommendation is even more surprising as it had already been accepted by HS2 Ltd, at least in respect of ancient woodland: unsurprisingly, the Committee’s report fails to mention this (see footnote 10).

The Committee compounds its environmental heresy by also attacking the messenger, in the guise of the Woodland Trust, criticising “the negativity of its evidence” and the Trust’s criticism of HS2 Ltd’s treatment of ancient woodland as “woefully inadequate”. In the same report paragraph, the Committee demonstrates a rather distorted version of the history of the project by crediting HS2 Ltd with the “achievement, by the extension of the Chiltern’s tunnel, in limiting the loss of ancient woodland in the AONB to less than one hectare” (see footnote 11): you may remember that the tunnel extension was proposed by petitioners in the Commons and was originally opposed by the Promoter (see footnote 12).

In a blog published on the Woodland Trust’s website, Richard Barnes poses the question, “Why such an unsympathetic Committee?” and attempts a possible answer:

“I have noted that several of the Committee members have a transport background, but few seemed to have any environmental background and this does not seem to reflect the balance of the House of Lords, who have several environmental champions and experts.”

Mr Barnes also hints, based upon the tone of the special session that the Committee held to launch its report, that rather than “listen to and impartially consider evidence from all petitioners” the Committee was unduly biased towards the Promoter’s view of things. I invite you to watch the session and make up your own mind (see footnote 13) – the proceedings do appear to be rather a lovefest between Chairman and Promoter’s Counsel, but this could just be indicating a surfeit of politeness, rather than being proof of unreasonable bias.

At least one of my colleagues has also alleged that there is evidence of a pro-HS2 Ltd bias in the Committee’s report (see footnote 14). There is certainly more than a whiff of this, I feel, but the Committee doesn’t entirely give a free run to the Promoter, making some criticisms of engagement, suggesting improving the scope of compensation and proposing a substantive amendment to the Bill restricting the Government’s power to grab land for development.

In his blog, Mr Barnes expresses a rather forlorn hope for the future:

“The Lords will be debate (sic) the report in their chamber, and hopefully other Lords will register their dissatisfaction with the proposals. After this it is up to the government to make sure HS2 is constructed in a manner consistent with government’s manifesto commitments and ambitions.”

Footnotes:

  1. See paragraph 3.1.4 and Table 1 in the report HS2 London-West Midlands Ecology Technical Note – Methodology for demonstrating no net loss in biodiversity, Arup/URS for HS2 Ltd. This report is reproduced as Appendix A to the publication HS2 London-West Midlands No net loss in biodiversity calculation Methodology and results, HS2 Ltd, December 2015.
  2. The footnote, which reads “Mature heathland and lowland fen are included here as a precaution due to their known occurrence within proximity to the land required for the construction of the Proposed Scheme”, is numbered “10” and may be found on page 7 of HS2 London-West Midlands Ecology Technical Note – Methodology for demonstrating no net loss in biodiversity.
  3. See paragraph 3.6 in the report Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric, Natural England, November 2016.
  4. See footnote 2 on page 22 of Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric. The original recommendation may be found in Section 5.3 of Volume 1 of Evaluation of the Biodiversity Offsetting Pilot Programme Final Report, Collingwood Environmental Planning Limited and the Institute for European Environmental Policy for Defra, June 2014.
  5. See paragraph 3.2 and footnote 1 on page 21 of Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric.
  6. See paragraph 3.21 of Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric.
  7. See the second paragraph of the section The Natural England review of HS2 Ltd’s No Net Loss metric in the letter of 22ndNovember 2016 from HS2 Ltd (R Hargreaves) to the Woodland Trust (V Bankes-Price).
  8. See the first paragraph of the section Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in the HS2 Ltd letter of 22ndNovember 2016.
  9. See paragraph 303 in the publication Second Special Report of Session 2015-16 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, House of Commons Select Committee on the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, 22ndFebruary 2016.
  10. See paragraphs 291 and 293 of the publication Special Report of Session 2016-17 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, House of Lords Select committee on the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill, 15thDecember 2016.
  11. See paragraph 305 of Special Report of Session 2016-17 High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill.
  12. See, for example, paragraphs 409 and 410 in the transcript of the afternoon session of the Commons HS2 Select Committee held on Tuesday 21stJuly 2015.
  13. See the video of the session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Thursday 15thDecember 2016.
  14. See Penny Gaines’ comments in the Stop HS2 blog, HS2 Chair Jumps Ship as Lords Deliver Final Report, posted 15thDecember 2015.

Acknowledgement: The HS2 Ltd letter of 22nd November 2016 is exhibits P5696(1) to P5696(7) on pages 362 to 368 in the Promoter’s bundle of evidence submitted to the Lords HS2 Select Committee in connection with the petition submitted by the Woodland Trust.

Cutting out the old wood, part 6

(… continued from Cutting out the old wood, part 5, posted on 26 Dec 2016).

In its report on its inquiry into the HS2 no net loss (NNL) calculation Natural England (NE) concedes that the “level of compensation proposed by HS2 Ltd for ancient woodland is – if judged in terms of a ratio of lost and created habitat – at the upper end of current practice and may well exceed that provided by other development and infrastructure projects” (see footnote 1).

In the evidence-in-chief that he gave to the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee on behalf of the Woodland Trust, Richard Barnes, Senior Conservation Advisor at the Trust, noted that the Environment Secretary had, only a couple of months previously, “repeated the Government’s manifesto commitment to be the first generation to leave our environment better than when we found it since the Industrial Revolution” (see footnote 2). Mr Barnes went on to say (see footnote 3):

“If Phase One, in its current form, gets Royal Assent in January, this ambition will be in tatters within four months of that being restated in September …”

Although these two views might appear to be contradictory, they are consistent on the basis of the assumption, held in some enlightened quarters, that “current practice” is just not good enough, and that the reality is certainly falling far short of the rhetoric of our political leaders. This analysis appears to be in line with NE’s view, because the NNL inquiry report comments that large scale development projects “will need to do more than the bare minimum and instead they should set exemplar standards for others to follow” (see footnote 4). According to NE, “the nature and scale of the [HS2] project is such that Natural England considers it should also be an exemplar of biodiversity conservation being delivered through growth” and adds that its report identifies “emerging opportunities that could make HS2 an exemplar project, enabling it to go further in fully adhering to UK biodiversity policy, contributing to UK biodiversity targets, and demonstrating good practice” (see footnote 5). So NE clearly doesn’t think that current practice is good enough, and is marking HS2 Ltd’s card “must do better”.

As far as the aspiration of HS2 becoming an exemplar project is concerned, it starts with one distinct disadvantage, which is the destruction of around 30 hectares of irreplaceable ancient woodland that Phase 1 requires. Although some, at least, of this destruction is avoidable, the Lords Select Committee has told us that it is too late to do anything about that, as the Third Reading in the House of Commons has given legislative approval to this environmental vandalism. Perhaps because of this, I detect a sense in the NE report of giving up on Phase 1 and proceeding on the basis that “lessons learnt from the Phase 1 approach to biodiversity compensation should be identified and applied to Phase 2 of the scheme” (see footnote 6).

Whilst, because Phase 1 entails the irrevocable destruction of irreplaceable habitat, it cannot assist the Environment Secretary with her aim to “leave our environment better than when we found it”, I do not see this as a reason to accept the current unsatisfactory biodiversity conservation proposals for Phase 1. On the contrary, it appears to me that this makes it even more important to adopt all of the NE recommendations and to improve the Phase 1 proposals to satisfy them as far as is possible.

In particular, since, as I reported in part 2, the loss of ancient woodland “causes loss to biodiversity, which cannot be mitigated or compensated” (see footnote 7), it is particularly imperative that HS2 Ltd is not allowed to ignore the NE recommendation to plant 30 hectares of new woodland for every one of ancient woodland lost. I do not agree with the Promoter’s Lead Counsel, Tim Mould QC, that finding the 700 hectares, or so, of land to accommodate the additional planting that satisfying the NE recommendation entails represents “a most onerous commitment” (see footnote 8).

According to Mr Barnes “the Government’s commitment is to have 5,000 hectares of new woodland planted in England every year” and his own organisation, the Woodland Trust, is planting nearly 300 hectares at just one site, Hartwell, and is “committing to plant 64 million trees by 2025” (see footnote 9): in this context 700 hectares does not seem a big ask, particularly since the Woodland Trust has identified a practical way of achieving this target using voluntary conservation covenants.

In the course of the Woodland Trust appearance in front of the Lords Select Committee, Tim Mould QC promised that the Government would use the “engagement” required to develop Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan “to consider how to compensate for losses to our irreplaceable ancient woodland and other habitats drawing on [a] natural capital approach”. Whilst Mr Barnes welcomed this news, which he advised he hadn’t heard before, he said that he still felt that, in the interim, that adopting the 30:1 recommendation would be a “good message [for HS2 Ltd] to send” (see footnote 10).

Bearing in mind the extent of the damage that Phase 1 is due to cause to our ancient woodland stock, I agree most strongly with Mr Barnes: it seems to me the very least that HS2 Ltd should be doing. I feel that we need proposals with a little more substance to them than the jam tomorrow that Mr Mould was offering and the uncertain benefits that the “natural capital approach” may, or may not, bring.

The full adoption of the NE recommendations for Phase 1 would help redress the current failure by HS2 Ltd to adhere to the polluter pays principle (see footnote 11), would signal the level of commitment to ancient woodland that both NE and the Woodland Trust are seeking and would serve as a suitable exemplar for future projects.

(To be concluded …)

Footnotes:

  1. See paragraph 10.14 in the report Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric, Natural England, November 2016.
  2. The Environment Secretary’s remark was made in a speech made on 16thSeptember 2016, which she delivered at the launch of the report State of Nature: this report pools data and expertise from more than 50 nature conservation and research organisations.
  3. See paragraph 394 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  4. See paragraph 10.5 in Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric.
  5. See paragraph 10.3 in Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric.
  6. See paragraph 10.34 in Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric.
  7. This is the verdict of the Woodland Trust’s Counsel, Reuben Taylor QC, as recorded in paragraph 13 in the transcript of the afternoon session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  8. See paragraph 7 in the transcript of the afternoon session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  9. See paragraphs 314 and 391 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  10. See paragraphs 473 and 474 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  11. In environmental law, the polluter pays principle is enacted to make the party responsible for producing pollution responsible for paying for the damage done to the natural environment – see the Wikipedia article on the subject.

Important Note: The record of the proceedings of the Lords HS2 Select Committee from which the quotes reproduced in this blog have been taken are uncorrected transcripts of evidence, which are not yet an approved formal record. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record in such instances, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.

Cutting out the old wood, part 5

(… continued from Cutting out the old wood, part 4, posted on 22 Dec 2016).

The Woodland Trust’s request that HS2 Ltd should achieve a 30:1 compensation ratio for ancient woodland that would be lost to HS2, as had been recommended by Natural England (NE), was hotly discussed when Richard Barnes, Senior Conservation Advisor at the Trust, was cross-examined in front of the House of Lords HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee by Tim Mould QC, Lead Counsel for the Promoter.

Achieving that recommended ratio would require around 900 hectares of new woodland to be created; about 700 hectares more than is currently planned. The canvassing that NE had undertaken in connection with its inquiry into the HS2 no net loss calculation had indicated “strong support for an approach that allows for compensation to be provided through voluntary agreements that extend beyond the immediate route corridor”. Whilst NE fully grasped that “there is no scope to extend the area of compensation land formally encompassed by the [HS2 Phase 1] scheme” its report opined that “moving away from the constraints of the Bill area would open up options …” (see footnote 1).

In the evidence-in-chief that he gave to the Committee on behalf of the Woodland Trust, Richard Barnes indicated that the Trust also supported a voluntary approach that was not confined to the Bill limits, and referred to “a misconception that the Trust [was] making a case for such compensation that … would be at the expense of prime agricultural land or disrupt local businesses”. On the contrary, he was able to identify a significant supporter for the concept that he was advancing, reporting to the Committee that “the CLA (the Country Land and Business Association Ltd) agree that compensatory habitat proposals delivered outside the Bill limits could reduce land take in most sensitive areas for businesses and deliver better results for biodiversity” (see footnote 2).

In its report, NE identifies two “possible approaches” that HS2 Ltd might take to secure the additional compensation planting: “direct negotiations and agreements with interested landowners”, or “the more formal use of offsetting providers, either through existing schemes such as that established in Warwickshire or a bespoke approach for HS2” (see footnote 3). It is important to realise that neither of these approaches would necessarily require HS2 Ltd to purchase any additional land and, as Mr Barnes had been at pains to point out, this was certainly not the way that the Warwickshire pilot had operated, where “voluntary conservation covenants with third party landowners” had been employed (see footnote 4).

When Mr Mould got his chance to cross-examine Mr Barnes, it became worrying apparent that the silk, and probably therefore also his client, had not entirely grasped what was being proposed by the Woodland Trust (in line with the NE recommendations and with the support of the CLA).

Mr Mould put it to the Woodland Trust witness that both of the two alternatives ways of securing compensation planting that had been suggested by NE “would demonstrably [require an] additional provision of great magnitude” (see footnote 5). Just why he should say this is unclear to me: it is surely apparent from the report and transcript extracts reproduced above that neither NE, nor the Woodland Trust, was suggesting any changes to the Bill limits and Mr Barnes was quick to remind him that the Trust was proposing the use of “voluntary conservation covenants with third party landowners along the route”, which “don’t involve the transfer of land ownership” (see footnote 6). Incomprehensibly, Mr Mould snapped that this rather crucial correction was, “nothing to the point” (see footnote 7).

It soon emerged, however, just why HS2 Ltd was fixated with keeping compensation planting within the Bill limits. The attraction is that acquisition of land within the Bill limits would be under compulsory purchase terms, removing any choice about whether to sell from the landowner and, with that, largely frustrating any ability to negotiate on price. As Mr Mould put it, without HS2 Ltd being able to resort to compulsory purchase, landowners could “demand a price for planting that would be entirely at their choice” (see footnote 8). Again, Mr Barnes was able to correct this misapprehension, pointing out to the silk that the Environment Bank “have established rates and costs” and that “in terms of new woodland planting, they do have a cost and rate for those voluntary conservation covenants” (see footnote 9).

Earlier in the session, Mr Barnes had been able to tell the Committee that, if figures that he had received from the Environment Bank were correct, securing 40 hectares of additional woodland planting using conservation covenants would cost about £5million. So, on a pro rata basis, the additional 700 hectares required to bring the compensation ratio up to the NE-recommended 30:1 would cost around £90million (see footnote 10).

In view of the emphasis that Mr Mould had placed upon the costs of the acquisition of land, it is fairly obvious that, aside from the confusion that the Promoter’s Lead Counsel had demonstrated, the chief stumbling block to meeting the compensation standard recommended by NE is cost. This racing certainty is surely sufficient justification for the charge made by Mr Barnes, and reported by me in part 4, that “the promoter is still trying to trade off the loss of ancient woodland against costs”.

(To be continued …)

Footnotes:

  1. See paragraph 10.20 in the report Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric, Natural England, November 2016.
  2. See paragraph 315 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  3. See paragraph 10.21 of Review of the High Speed 2 No Net Loss in Biodiversity Metric.
  4. See paragraphs 454 and 456 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  5. See paragraph 453 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016. I have corrected the text of the transcript to record what Mr Mould actually said as revealed by the video of the session.
  6. See paragraphs 454 and 458 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  7. See paragraph 459 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016
  8. See paragraph 455 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  9. See paragraph 456 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.
  10. See paragraph 317 in the transcript of the morning session of the Lords HS2 Select Committee held on Wednesday 23rdNovember 2016.

Important Note: The record of the proceedings of the Lords HS2 Select Committee from which the quotes reproduced in this blog have been taken is an uncorrected transcript of evidence, which is not yet an approved formal record. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record in such instances, and it may therefore be subject to changes being made in the light of any such corrections being requested.