Looking at it logically

Environmental aspects of the 51m consultation response, part 26

So is it possible to make any meaningful estimates of the impact that the HS2 proposal will have on carbon dioxide emissions and are the calculations in the Appraisal of Sustainability (AoS) meaningful?

My training as an engineer has taught me that a good way to start any analysis of a complex problem is to try and build a model of the system under consideration. Once you have a model you can simplify matters by looking at individual parts of the larger whole. So let’s try and do this, if only in a rudimentary fashion, for the HS2 proposal.

As I see it, HS2 will be a new railway that will provide an alternative service for some users of the existing InterCity network. It will provide relief to the InterCity network by taking passengers off InterCity trains, allowing some services on existing routes to be reduced and the train paths freed up to be used by other services, including freight and new passenger routes. In this way HS2 could be regarded as an “InterCity bypass”.

HS2 will use a purpose built track and infrastructure, including new stations in most cases. However HS2 trains will also run on the existing InterCity tracks to serve stations not connected to the HS2 lines. This requirement will reduce as the high speed network is extended.

HS2 trains will be powered by electricity. This means that the carbon emissions associated with operating HS2 will depend upon the carbon intensity of grid electricity and, in particular, whether the UK Government is successful in achieving a move towards greener electricity in line with climate change targets.

Initially HS2 will only provide relief for the West Coast Main Line (WCML), but planned further expansion toManchester and Leedswill benefit the East Coast Main Line (ECML) and the Midland Main Line (MML). However HS2 will only serve a small number of stations and services to intermediate stations will still be provided by InterCity trains. This requirement must mean that InterCity services will continue to run in parallel with the replacement HS2 trains, albeit probably at a reduced service level.

It is intended that HS2 will be the carrier of choice for passengers using the stations which it serves. However it may be assumed that passengers using those stations will also be able to opt to use the slower InterCity service, in the same way that there is a choice of services available to many passengers now. It can be expected that the InterCity Train Operating Companies will wish to compete with HS2 for the patronage of these passengers.

It is highly unlikely that HS2 will offer a service frequency that is inferior to the current InterCity services which it is seeking to usurp. After all HS2 is all about reducing journey time and this is the addition of the actual journey time and any time spent waiting for the next train. This implies that the total number of train services running on HS2 and InterCity combined will be greater than the number of InterCity train services operating prior to HS2 opening.

We know that HS2 will have at least one “parkway” station (Birmingham Interchange) and that there may be more such stations on the, as yet unpublished, “Y” extensions. Although some users of parkways may use public transport to and from the station, parkways are particularly aimed at private car users. So we can expect that most train journeys terminating at a parkway station will also involve an element of private car travel. In the case of Birmingham Interchange station we may also expect that the lower journey times of HS2 will attract passengers from further afield than currently drive to Birmingham International, so increasing the private car travel element.

HS2 has the potential to stimulate “modal shift”, i.e. to encourage a passenger to change allegiance from one transport method to another; the lower journey times possible with HS2 should ensure that this stimulus for passengers to shift to rail is greater than currently achieved by InterCity. In the case of HS2 the two alternative transport modes of interest are private car travel and domestic air travel.

Now you may think that all of this is fine, but this simple description hardly qualifies as a “model”. However I hope to show in my next blog that, simple as it is, it is sufficient analysis to enable a number of modules to be defined on which we can structure our review of the carbon emissions estimates in the AoS.

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There’s something in the air

Environmental aspects of the 51m consultation response, part 25

In my blog Not worth the paper (posted 3 Mar 2013) I established that the calculations of the expected carbon dioxide emissions in the HS2 Appraisal of Sustainability (AoS) are, to say the least, imprecise and that it is not possible to say whether HS2 will cause a net increase or decrease in the UK’s carbon emissions total. In A drop in the ocean (posted 7 Mar 2013) I argued that the contribution made by HS2 will, in any case, be insignificant when compared with the total emission quantity for the transport sector and the UK economy as a whole.

If you accept the conclusions drawn by these two blogs – and I hope that you have learnt by now to trust me at least a little – then is there any point spending more time looking at the claims and counter-claims in the AoS and the opposing Appendix 6 to the 51m consultation response? Well yes, I think that this is still a worth-while exercise and I will explain in this current blog just why I propose to spend more time on this.

A good reason to consider HS2 carbon emissions further is that the Government has sought to portray HS2 as part of a green transport agenda. This claim was first made in Section 30 of The Coalition: our programme for government (here):

“We will establish a high speed rail network as part of our programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for creating a low carbon economy.”

Outrageous as this claim now appears, it was virtually repeated by Philip Hammond in his Foreword to High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain’s Future (here):

“High speed rail is also an important part of our plans for a low carbon economy, helping us meet our climate change targets by encouraging millions out of their cars and off the planes onto the train.”

But as his reign at the Department for Transport was coming to an end the message was becoming less assertive, somehow. Writing in The Daily Telegraph in September (here) Mr Hammond would only claim carbon benefits from HS2 by association:

“We have announced a major electrification programme to reduce the carbon footprint of our railways. Our plans for a national high speed rail network would encourage passengers to switch from short-haul aviation to rail …”

It appears that even the new Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, cannot totally resist the temptation to portray HS2 as “green”. In her evidence to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee on 19th October 2011 (transcript) she said:

“It is on my agenda to see what we can do to pursue that green transport agenda effectively. When we talk about railways and high speed rail, they are lower carbon than, for example, road in terms of per passenger mile.”

Hopefully the House of Commons Transport Select Committee (TSC) has brought the curtain down on this portrayal of HS2 as a green proposition. In my blog Beware of Greeks bearing gifts (posted 21 Nov 2011) I quoted the following put-down from the TSC’s report on HS2:

“At best, HS2 has the potential to make a small contribution to the Government’s carbon-reduction targets. Given the scale of the expenditure and the official assessment, HS2 should not be promoted as a carbon-reduction scheme.”

Now that the Government is on the run on the green virtues of HS2, I would like to push them further. What if it could be shown that far from being “broadly carbon neutral” it was virtually certain that HS2 would increase UK carbon emissions? Surely the “greenest government ever” would not be able to support a major transport infrastructure project that flew in the face of our climate change commitments?

I think that we also need to consider the position of the environmental lobby groups. As I mentioned in Wheeling out the big guns (posted 1 Aug 2011) a number of the major players have come together to support the Right Lines Charter; I said in my blog posted in August that there were ten such supporters, but the number has since risen to thirteen (the new members are Railfuture, Ramblers and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings). The statement forming the preamble to the Right Lines Charter indicates that the problem for the environmental lobby is that it is in favour of rail over other transport modes because it believes that increased use of rail will reduce “the damaging impact of travel on the environment” and that “shifting journeys from road and air to rail needs to be a key priority”.

In the text that accompanies Principle 1 of the Right Lines Charter, the problem of reducing carbon dioxide emissions is addressed:

“A particular challenge for a UK strategy is to tackle rising carbon emissions from land transport swiftly. The Committee on Climate Change says that at least a 60% cut in domestic emissions is needed by 2030 to be on the path to secure a 90% cut (equivalent to 80% once emissions from international aviation and shipping are factored in) by 2050. High Speed Rail therefore needs to be planned and justified as a strategic element of a sustainable, near zero carbon transport system.”

The groups behind the Right Lines Charter seem to be in something of a dilemma; is HS2 a horse that they should back as “a strategic element of a sustainable, near zero carbon transport system”?

There is also the not insignificant matter of the association of three signatories of the Right Lines Charter with a report which claims that HS2 “could in fact cut carbon emissions”, as reported in my blog It beggars belief  (posted 27 Dec 2011).

I feel that these issues indicate that the carbon emissions situation with HS2 is a matter that requires further investigation and that after nearly eighty blogs it is time that I tried to get to grips with it. So next time I will start to set out my examination what the AoS says about carbon emissions, the comments that 51m has made and whether HS2 really could cut carbon emissions.

A drop in the ocean

Environmental aspects of the 51m consultation response, part 24

In my previous blog (Not worth the paper, posted 3 Mar 2013) I quoted from paragraph 8.3.4 of Volume 1 of the HS2 Appraisal of Sustainability (here). This paragraph also says:

“However, whichever scenario takes shape, the contribution of HS2 would be insignificant when compared to wider transport emissions in the UK, particularly from road vehicles.”

Just how “insignificant” the impact of HS2 might be can be judged from provisional statistics for 2010 published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (here). These statistics reveal that the total carbon dioxide emissions from UK sources in 2010 were 492 million tonnes, of which 121 million tonnes, i.e. around a quarter, was transport related (excluding international aviation and shipping emissions).

So if – and it is a very big “if” – HS2 achieves the most optimistic forecast reduction of 28 million tonnes, that will amount to less than 6% of the total carbon dioxide emitted in a year, or 23% of the total transport-related emissions. You may think that this is hardly “insignificant”, but the HS2 savings are the total over sixty years of operation so the average yearly saving drops down to tiny fractions of one percent of the total UK emissions.

The crux of any real claim that HS2 may have to benefit the carbon budget of the UK is summarised in a single sentence in the table of issues under paragraph 8.3.6 on page 80 of Volume 1 of the Appraisal of Sustainability (AoS), which says:

“The greatest potential benefit for HS2 in terms of carbon emissions would be associated with people using it in preference to air travel.”

If this is the case then the impact of such benefit cannot exceed the total carbon emissions from domestic aviation, so how significant would such a reduction be? An answer to this question can be found in a group of statistics for the year 2008 published by the Department for Transport and identified as ENV0201 (here). This data includes a pie chart showing the percentage of the total transport emissions generated by each transport mode in 2008. This chart shows that domestic aviation was only responsible for 1.7% of all transport emissions; associated data in other tables equates this to around 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

But of course, it is not being claimed that HS2 will cause the total demise of domestic air travel; we can expect that this sector will still continue to generate greenhouse gas emissions even when HS2 is a fully-developed transport option. The most optimistic claim in Volume 1 of the AoS, declared in paragraph 8.3.16 on page 83, is that 23.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide will be saved from modal shift to HS2 from domestic aviation over sixty years, an average of 0.4 million tonnes per year. This is only about a 15% saving in the total domestic aviation emissions.

Since the same pie chart shows over fifty-five percent of emissions in 2008 was caused by cars and taxis, it is unfortunate that the claim being made for savings from modal shift from road to HS2 is very modest. Paragraph 8.3.15 on page 83 of the AoS puts the most optimistic estimate at 2.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over sixty years, which is only 0.05% of the total emissions from cars and taxis every year.

So the conclusion that we may draw from all of these numbers is that the only significant impact that HS2 may have on UK domestic transport greenhouse gas emissions is as a result of modal shift from domestic aviation. Even then, this would only be significant if some optimistic assumptions about the effects of modal shift turn out to apply in practice. However even if a significant reduction in domestic aviation emissions is achieved by HS2, then this will still be very insignificant compared with total transport emissions.

Put simply, if HS2 is being promoted as a way of reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions, then it is surely a very ineffective and inefficient way of achieving this.

Time for a pause

A promising local playwright and poet once wrote that “summer’s lease hath all too short a date” and that certainly seems to me to be the case this year (see footnote 1). The events that count down the progress of a British summer are rattling through – as I post Wimbledon is reaching the climax of its second week and the First Night of the Proms takes place this very evening – and I am only too aware that, in my own life calendar, summer has passed and I am well into autumn – I “celebrated” my sixty-ninth birthday this week.

For more than six years now (see footnote 2) I have managed, with very few exceptions, to stick to my self-imposed discipline of posting a new blog every four days, and once or twice have stepped up this posting rate when the urgency of the situation dictated. The automatic count of blogs on my WordPress administration page shows that I am within a handful of clicking over the six hundred mark, which must be somewhere in the region of half-a-million words.

Whilst I have never aimed at a mass audience I have a steady, if numerically unspectacular, readership and have, on a number of occasions, been surprised to learn that some notable environmentalists and politicians have read some of my output, or are at least aware of my efforts. And, it appears, my “fame” knows no geographical boundaries: the world map that WordPress provides to blog administrators tells me that I have a worldwide readership, although why someone on the other side of the world would be interested in the UK Government’s attempts to play catch-up with a technology that is already past its sell-by date is beyond me – perhaps these people are UK exiles or, more likely, are just cybersurfers who land on my site by pure serendipity.

The satisfaction that I have derived from all this graft has, however, nothing to do with crude numbers: it arises from my genuine belief that I have exposed, by rigorous and objective examination of the evidence that has been available to me, that the case that has been made for building HS2 is based upon suspect claims and exaggerated benefits. Most of all, I am proud to have highlighted the disregard that the Department for Transport and its liegeman HS2 Ltd have shown for the value of our natural environment, and the environmental law and government policies that are meant to protect that environment, and of the inadequacy of the proposals that have been made for new habitat creation in place of what will be destroyed. Most recent examples that have come under the objective lens of my microscope are the alleged failure to satisfy the requirements of the relevant EU Council directive, as interpreted by the European Court of Justice, in respect of affording protection to the Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC (see footnote 3) and the failure to adopt the replacement ratios for ancient woodland that have been proposed by Natural England (see footnote 4).

Sifting through the evidence in an attempt to arrive at the truth has often not been easy. The sheer volume of documentation that has been published in connection with the project, much of it overstuffed with words, has meant that I have had to devote many hours of reading to distil the essential elements to present them to you, and each posting is a considerable labour of love. Paradoxically though, it is probably within some of the documents that have not been published, despite the best efforts of a group of campaigners to employ freedom of information legislation to tease them out of the Government’s firm grasp (see footnote 5), that the really juicy stuff might be found, and there are significant gaps in the evidence that is available, for example in the figures that support the passenger demand predictions that lie at the heart of the business case.

But there is one particular statistic that has become, above all others, foremost in my mind in recent months. This is the realisation that my own expectancy of years of active life is unlikely to be many more than I have fingers and, if I am unlucky, could be fewer than I can count on my digits. I really don’t want to spend a significant proportion of those precious years chained to a computer screen and keyboard.

I feel that now is the right time to reflect on this and begin to loose the bonds. After all our dear friends at Westminster are preparing in this coming week to return to their constituencies for the summer recess, and the HS2 project is effectively settling into a between-phases period. It is, of course, true that we have been promised that the Rubicon for Phase 1 will be crossed in the next week or two with the signing of the main design and build contracts, but the die has already been cast for this to be an inevitable rather than a significant event. Also, we cannot expect much action on Phase 2a until the hybrid Bill has been deposited in Parliament, which we are unlikely to see before the end of this year, if not later than that.

If I take the opportunity of a break that this hiatus appears to offer, perhaps I will be able to enjoy what is left of the summer and give some much needed attention to my wilderness of a garden, the desolation of which bears testament to the demands that the HS2 project has made on my time. I am sure that the current state of my plot is probably very beneficial to the environment, but an excursion into it makes me feel like the Knight in Burne-Jones’s set of paintings The Legend of the Briar Rose.

I have decided, therefore, that this will be the last regular blog that I will post on the four-day cycle, and that I will, hereafter, post irregularly and far less frequently, depending on when I feel the need.

Although shedding this burden is a relief, I do feel a little like Prospero seeking to quit his enchanted isle, but feeling the need to beg the “indulgence” of his audience to “set [him] free” (see footnote 6). I hope that you, my loyal readers, will feel similarly kindly disposed towards me in my desire to be released to resume my previous life.

Footnotes:

  1. See William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?.
  2. My first blog, Why am I doing this?, was posted on 10thMarch 2011.
  3. See my blog A stab in the dark, part 4 (posted 6 Jul 2017).
  4. See my blog Cutting out the old wood, part 4 (posted 22 Dec 2016).
  5. For a case in point see my blog Peering into the laundry basket (posted 19 May 2017).
  6. See the Epilogue to The Tempest, William Shakespeare.

A stab in the dark, part 5

(… continued from A stab in the dark, part 4, posted on 6 Jul 2017).

In this concluding part of the blog series I will consider, by way of a coda, the impacts that the Initial Preferred Route (IPR) for HS2 Phase 2a, or Route C as I have identified it, will have on Lionlodge Covert Site of Biological Importance (SBI) and the remnant of inland salt marsh that lies within the SBI.

Lionlodge Covert was first surveyed for the Staffordshire Ecological Record in 2014 (see footnote 1). It is a broadleaved, mixed and yew, plantation woodland that is growing on drained saltmarsh. The woodland is 15.4 ha in extent and is privately-owned. Consistent with its name, it is used for the raising of gamebirds.

Lionlodge Covert – drainage ditch

In 2015 a further ecological survey was carried out, and the “woodland boundary was extended” to include the area of inland saltmarsh that lies to the south of Lionlodge Covert, and which I have referred to in this blog series as the Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh. The current extent of this marsh is 1.5 ha and it is described in the Ecological Site Report as poor semi-improved grassland.

Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh

Following the second survey the site was designated as a Site of Biological Importance (SBI) and recognised as comprising two sub-sites: woodland, and inland saltmarsh (see footnote 2).

The Ecological Survey Report notes that the SBI designation has been afforded to Lionlodge Covert because of its “species-rich woodland ground flora which supports several ancient woodland indicator species” (see footnote 3). Examples of such species are noted in the report as “frequent Bluebell, Dog’s Mercury, Wood Speedwell and occasional Enchanter’s Nightshade where the ground was wetter” (see footnote 4). A good selection of other woodland plants are listed in the report as having been recorded, including four species of fern.

The report describes the Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh as “an area of rank, wet grassland”: the photograph reproduced above confirms that it is not much to look at, but this image problem belies its ecological importance as an example of natural inland salt marsh (see footnote 5). Although, due to drainage schemes being employed, it is now only a remnant of its historical extent, which records indicate was something in excess of 35ha (see footnote 6), what remains of the Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh is, like its more-illustrious cousin at Pasturefields, a rare example of a habitat type that is listed as a priority habitat in Annex 1 to Directive 92/43/EEC of the EU Council.

The Ecological Site Report records that the Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh “supports extensive areas of Saltmarsh Rush” which is “currently only recorded on two other sites in Staffordshire”, one of which is Pasturefields. However, the report also credits the Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh with an accolade that cannot be claimed by Pasturefields:

“The site also is host to Stiff Saltmarsh-grass which has not been recorded in the county since 1923 and is a significant record for the country. The species is nationally scarce and normally confined to coastal locations. At present there is only one other inland site in Britain (in Cheshire) where the species has been recorded in modern flora accounts.”

The report also notes records of breeding Northern Lapwing and of Eurasian Curlew “displaying breeding behaviour” – more recent information indicates that Eurasian Curlew is now an established breeder on the site (see footnote 7). Both of these birds are “red listed” as birds of the highest conservation concern in the UK; the Eurasian Curlew is of particular concern as it has moved from amber to red (see footnote  8), and has been authoritatively described as “[the UK’s] highest priority species from a global perspective” (see footnote 9).

The map reproduced below indicates that the HS2 IPR Route C will be bad news for Lionlodge Covert and the Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh (see footnote 10).

Source: HS2Ltd

HS2 Ltd advises that the construction of the Trent North embankment, shown on the map, “would result in the permanent loss of approximately 5ha (approximately 30%) of Lionlodge Covert LWS” (see footnote 11). According to the Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council, this breaks down to a loss of approximately 25% of the woodland sub-site and the whole of the saltmarsh sub-site (see footnote 12).

It is a condemnation of the way that environmental protection operates in the UK that there are two similar inland saltmarsh sites within a mile of each other, with one being strictly protected under the EC Habitats Directive and the other having nothing more than the ineffectual protection offered by Local Wildlife Site (LWS) status. Inland salt marsh is an irreplaceable habit, and the Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh is, surely, potentially of national importance.

Sadly, as the treatment of ancient woodland on Phase 1 of the HS2 project has demonstrated only too clearly, HS2 Ltd pays no regard to the irreplaceability of habitat and appears to treat LWS status as an open invitation to trash with impunity.

The Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council has also learnt a lesson that many respondents to the public consultations on Phase 1 would recognise; that HS2 Ltd pays little regard to intelligence fed to it by local communities. The Council notes that it has passed a “considerable quantity of information” to HS2 Ltd, but that “but none has been acted on”, and that “almost all previously supplied information had been ignored or misrepresented” in the draft Environmental Impact Assessment that was published in September 2016 (see footnote 13).

There is however one matter that HS2 Ltd would be well-advised to pay some attention to. The Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council has warned HS2 Ltd that the “brine springs that feed [the Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh] remain active” and that “local measurements of brine concentration and flow rate at just one of the outflow points from the drainage network of the marsh gives a daily loss of 1.34 Tonnes (0.5m3) of salt” and that this salt derives from “natural dissolution of halite that underlies the salt marsh”. The Council adds that it regards this figure as “a minimum as there are several outflow points and not all were measured” (see footnote 14).

The Council concludes that (see footnote 15):

“Apart from the corrosive nature of brine, it appears that HS2 Ltd has created for itself significant engineering challenges in maintaining track stability in the face of the loss of supporting ground amounting to several hundred cubic metres per annum.”

That this may be a much wider problem in the area is, perhaps, indicated by the following map, which shows where salt dissolution subsidence can occur (see footnote 16).

Source: British Geological Survey

This map is evidence of the “geological instability” that I referred to in part 1 of this blog series, which is a legacy of both the history of commercial salt extraction and the natural processes that have created the two inland salt marshes. Historic ground subsidence is a matter of record and Dr Anthony Cooper, at the time a geologist with the British Geological Survey, warns in a paper reviewing the “geohazards” associated with the erosion of rock salt deposits, that “further subsidence may occur” as “only about 10% of the volume of salt removed … has been accounted for by recorded subsidence” (see footnote 17).

The IPR for HS2 Phase 2a (Route C), coloured dark green, cuts across the north-eastern corner of the large area that is marked as being “prone to some salt dissolution subsidence” on the BGS map that I have reproduced above. This potentially problematic traverse is in contrast with the much safer original first choice route, Route B (coloured light green), which avoids the subsidence-prone area altogether: it is extremely unlikely that this increased risk factor, and the consequential engineering expenses of overcoming the subsidence risk, was taken into account when the additional £154million cost of Route C was calculated by HS2 Ltd.

Footnotes:

  1. The site reference in the Staffordshire Ecological Record is 92/84/70. The Ecological Site Report is not currently available on the internet.
  2. Site of Biological Importance is a non-statutory designation used locally by the Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Staffordshire County Councils to protect locally valued sites of biological diversity, which are described generally as Local Wildlife Sites by the UK Government.
  3. Although Lionlodge Covert is not, of course, ancient woodland.
  4. The report notes that the “native Bluebell is at risk from being displaced” by the Hybrid Bluebell that occurs along the main access tracks “if it continues to spread”.
  5. For an explanation of the importance of this habitat type see part 1 of this blog series.
  6. See bullet point 1 under Section 7 (Cultural Heritage) 7.3.7 and 7.3.8 (Non-designated Assets) in the response to Question 3 in HS2 Phase 2a: West Midlands to Crewe Environmental Impact Assessment Report Response by Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council 7.11.2016 on the Council’s HS2 webpage.
  7. Breeding of Eurasian Curlew at the Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh is confirmed in a private email circular, dated 12thApril 2017, transmitted by the Deputy Chairman of the West Midland Bird Club.
  8. There was an overall UK decline in Eurasian Curlew population of 42 per cent between 1995 and 2008 and the UK is host to as much as 27 per cent of the world’s breeding curlews.
  9. According to Dan Brown, Conservation Adviser with RSPB Scotland – see the web article Curlew should be UK’s top conservation concern says RSPB Scotland, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, 3rdDecember 2015.
  10. The map is a section of drawing LV-11-109 in the publication High Speed Two Phase 2a: West Midlands to Crewe Working Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report Volume 2: Map book CA2: Colwich to Yarlet, HS2 Ltd, September 2016. I have rotated the axis of the map to comply with the north upwards presentation of all the other maps that have been used to illustrate this blog series.
  11. See paragraph 8.4.6 in the publication High Speed Two Phase 2a: West Midlands to Crewe Working Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report Volume 2: Community Area report CA2: Colwich to Yarlet, HS2 Ltd, September 2016.
  12. See under 8.3.9 (Environmental Baseline – Existing baseline – Lionlodge Covert LWS) in the response to Question 3 in the response to the HS2 Phase 2a EIA by Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council.
  13. See Section 1 (Introduction) in HS2: Notes on costs and benefits from seeking a route change on the HS2 webpage of the Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council.
  14. See bullet point 1 under Section 7 (Cultural Heritage) 7.3.7 and 7.3.8 (Non-designated Assets) and 10.3.38, 10.3.39 together with 10.4.21 (Environmental baseline – Mining/mineral resources – Halite deposits) under Section 10 (Land quality) in the response to the HS2 Phase 2a EIA by Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council.
  15. See 10.3.38, 10.3.39 together with 10.4.21 (Environmental baseline – Mining/mineral resources – Halite deposits) under Section 10 (Land quality) in the response to the HS2 Phase 2a EIA by Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council.
  16. This map was provided in private correspondence dated 29thJanuary 2014 between the BGS (Dr Vanessa Banks) and Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council (Cllr Michael Woodhouse).
  17. The paper is Cooper A H, Halite karst geohazards (natural and man-made) in the United Kingdom, Environmental Geology Volume 42, Issue 5, pp505-512, August 2002.

Acknowledgements:

I am very grateful to Cllr Michael Woodhouse of Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council for hosting and guiding my fact-finding visit to Ingestre, providing background information and copies of unpublished documents, checking the factual content of this blog, and for his helpful suggestions for improvements.

The Ordinance Survey mapping upon which the HS2 Ltd route design and subsidence areas have been overlaid has been reproduced in accordance with the principles of fair dealing as set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.  On this basis, this mapping is:

Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO.

© Crown Copyright. All rights reserved.

A stab in the dark, part 4

(… continued from A stab in the dark, part 3, posted on 2 Jul 2017).

I concluded the previous posting with the accusation that the HRA Screening Report for Pasturefields Salt Marsh has not attained the standard of proof required by the Waddenzee judgment, specifically that “no reasonable scientific doubt remains” that constructing HS2 on a southern route past the Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC will have no adverse effects on the SAC. In this part I will explain my reasons for holding this view.

In the first place the authors of the HRA Screening Report were either unaware, or chose to ignore, potentially significant evidence that may indicate that the catchment area for the saline water that feeds the Pasturefields Salt Marsh extends further southwards than is envisaged in that report. This evidence is the existence of the Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh (also known as Lionlodge Covert), which is located just under one kilometre south of Pasturefields, as shown on the map reproduced below.

Source: Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council

The present extent of the saltmarsh, part of the Lionlodge Covert Site of Biological Importance (SBI) designated by Staffordshire County Council (see footnote 1), is indicated by the red hatching. The red star just above that is the still-active salt spring that feeds the saltmarsh, which is known as Salt Spring Pool. The yellow area is the extent of the saltmarsh before it was drained by the open ditches and culverts (known and suspected) shown by blue lines (broken lines for culverts). The near-horizontal black line that cuts through the saltmarsh is HS2 Route C. The orange area with a blue duck on it, is the Pasturefields SAC.

I don’t think that you need to be a hydrogeologist to spot that there may be a connection between the saline sources that are feeding the Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh and the Pasturefields Salt Marsh, and that the proposed construction of an embankment to carry HS2 across the former might just affect the health of both. Whether or not this proves to be the case, it is surely negligent to present a screening report that fails to take account of the possibility.

Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on our own instincts, because expert opinion is near to hand. The Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council has recently commissioned Envireau Water, a specialist hydrogeological consultancy, to review the hydrogeology of Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC and Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh SBI.

The lead author of the Envireau Water report, James Dodds (see footnote 2), whilst noting that there “remains significant uncertainty relating to groundwater flow paths in the area due to a lack of groundwater level data” (see footnote 3) is clearly not convinced by the assertion in the HRA Screening Report for Pasturefields Salt Marsh that “there are not predicted to be any saline groundwater flows from the west or south of the site to the Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC” (see footnote 4).

The Envireau Water report postulates a totally different mechanism for the source of the saline water that gives rise to the two salt marshes. It identifies a “fractured zone associated with the Tixall Fault” (see footnote 5) and considers it “likely that the saline groundwater seepages/springs at both Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC and Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh SBI have a common source and groundwater catchment, associated with the Tixall Fault”. The report adds that “any impact to the groundwater along the trajectory of the Tixall Fault has the potential to impact groundwater seepages/springs at both Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC and Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh SBI” (see footnote 6).

The report identifies two aspects of Route C that could cause such an effect: that piling associated with the HS2 railway embankment to be built across the Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh will “intersect high permeability fracture zones associated with the Tixall fault; and, that the proposed Brancote South cutting will have a severe adverse impact on the local water table, thus reducing the artesian pressure head which almost certainly drives the brine springs (see footnote 7).

This intervention alone should be enough to convince any independent observer that the HRA Screening Report for Pasturefields Salt Marsh does not achieve the degree of certainty that is required by the Waddenzee judgment, but the Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council has also received advice from the British Geological Survey (BGS). The Parish Council asked the BGS to review the HRA Screening Report for Pasturefields Salt Marsh. The BGS notes the lack of “baseline data” available to the authors of that report and comments that “it is hard for anyone to predict the potential impact of the proposed HS2 construction along any of the proposed alignments” and suggests that “an alternative conceptual ground model should be considered looking at the wider area from which brine has been derived” (see footnote 8).

Armed with this formidable evidence that the HRA Screening Report for Pasturefields Salt Marsh is deficient, the Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council has sought, through correspondence and meetings with HS2 Ltd to seek a recasting of the document, but have encountered a stonewall. Statute limits what a local council can spend in the furtherance of such disputes (see footnote 9), but the Council’s webpage indicates the intention to launch an independent fund-raising campaign to allow the matter to be pursued through the courts, if necessary (see footnote 10).

In this respect, it should be noted that Article 9 of the Aarhus Convention requires that “members of the public have access to administrative or judicial procedures to challenge acts and omissions by private persons and public authorities which contravene provisions of its national law relating to the environment” and that the employment of such procedures should be “not prohibitively expensive” (see footnote 11), although the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee has recently determined that the European Union, and some of its member states (including the United Kingdom), fail to comply with their Article 9 obligations (see footnote 12).

(To be concluded …)

Footnotes:

  1. Site of Biological Importance is a non-statutory designation used locally by the Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Staffordshire County Councils to protect locally valued sites of biological diversity, which are described generally as Local Wildlife Sites by the UK Government. The designation for the Ingestre site covers two sub-sites: the woodland area of Lionlodge Covert, and the inland saltmarsh area referred to above as the Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh.
  2. James Dodds MSc CGeol FGS is Managing Director of Envireau Water and is a Chartered Geologist with some thirty years’ experience of hydrogeological consulting.
  3. See Section 7 in the report Hydrogeological Conceptualisation of Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC & Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh SBI Great Haywood Staffordshire, Envireau Water for Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council, June 2017. The text of this report is reproduced on the Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council website under the heading Hydrogeological Assessment by Envireau Water (but the original pagination has not been retained).
  4. See paragraph 3.6.2 in the unpublished HS2 Phase 2 HRA Screening Report for Pasturefields Salt Marsh.
  5. According to the Envireau Water report, the Tixall fault runs “alongside Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh” and “may extend a further 2km to the northeast beyond the village of Hixon … and therefore also runs alongside Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC”. See Section 3 on page 4 of the report Hydrogeological Conceptualisation of Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC & Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh SBI Great Haywood Staffordshire.
  6. See Section 3 on page 5 of the report Hydrogeological Conceptualisation of Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC & Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh SBI Great Haywood Staffordshire.
  7. See Sections 4.1 and 4.2 on pages 5 and 6 of the report Hydrogeological Conceptualisation of Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC & Ingestre/Tixall Salt Marsh SBI Great Haywood Staffordshire.
  8. The quotes are taken from the Conclusions section of private correspondence dated 29th January 2014 between the BGS (Dr Vanessa Banks) and Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council (Cllr Michael Woodhouse).
  9. Section 137 of the Local Government Act 1972 allows a local council to “incur expenditure which in their opinion is in the interests of, and will bring direct benefit to, their area or any part of it or all or some of its inhabitants” for purposes for which they do not have specific statutory powers. The total sum that may be spent under Section 137 in the year 2017-18 is limited to £7.57 per head of population of the administrative area of the council.
  10. See the section 4 What if HS2 Ltd resist? On the HS2 webpage of the Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council.
  11. See paragraphs 3 and 4 of Article 9 of the document Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Aarhus Denmark, 25thJune 1998.
  12. See the document Findings and recommendations of the Compliance Committee with regard to communication ACCC/C/2008/32 (Part II) concerning compliance by the European Union, Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee. 17thMarch 2017.

Acknowledgements:

I am very grateful to Cllr Michael Woodhouse of Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council for hosting and guiding my fact-finding visit to Ingestre, providing background information and copies of unpublished documents, checking the factual content of this blog, and for his helpful suggestions for improvements.

The Ordinance Survey mapping upon which the HS2 Ltd route design and details of the saltmarsh have been overlaid has been reproduced in accordance with the principles of fair dealing as set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.  On this basis, this mapping is:

Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO.

© Crown Copyright. All rights reserved.

A stab in the dark, part 3

(… continued from A stab in the dark, part 2, posted on 28 Jun 2017).

In September 2016 HS2 Ltd published the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for HS2 Phase 2a (West Midlands to Crewe). This document identifies three routes past Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC as having been considered, and these were depicted in a figure in an appendix to the EIA, from which the following map has been extracted (see footnote 1):

Source: HS2 Ltd

The three routes discussed in the draft EIA, reading from north to south, are:

  1. Route B, passing to the north of the Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC and depicted in red on the map, which the HS2 Ltd HRA Screening Report has assessed and has concluded requires an appropriate assessment to be carried out.
  2. Route HSM1, now referred to as Route A, passing south of the Pasturefields SAC and coloured blue on the map, which the HRA Screening Report has assessed and has concluded does not require an appropriate assessment to be carried out.
  3. A route that was not assessed in the HRA Screening Report, identified in the draft EIA as Route C and coloured brown on the map. Although not specifically assessed by the HRA Screening Report, the inference of that report is that no appropriate assessment will be required for this route, since it passes south of the Pasturefields SAC at a greater distance than Route A (see footnote 2).

By this stage the other route that had been assessed in the HRA Screening Report, HSM2, had been dropped from the alternatives under discussion.

Despite three route options being discussed in the draft EIA, it is clear that HS2 Ltd had, for some time, been settled on one of them, as Route C had been selected for the Initial Preferred Route (IPR) that was announced in January 2013, and subjected to public consultation between July 2013 and January 2014. It is clear from the discussion in the draft EIA that a key factor driving this choice was the HRA Screening Report conclusion that an appropriate assessment would not be required for this route (see footnote 3).

The appropriate assessment procedure is described in the HRA Screening Report as “a very stringent process with often demanding requirements to be met” (see footnote 4) and in the draft EIA as “involving considerable ground investigation work potentially over a number of years to investigate and assess potential impacts on the integrity of the internationally important SAC” (see footnote 3).

Route C was chosen despite being considerably more expensive, to the tune of at least £154million, than the putative “best performing route” (Route B). In his submission to the HS2 Phase Two Route Consultation the local Member of Parliament Jeremy Lefroy comments that it is “not known why HS2 wishes to avoid an Appropriate Assessment although it is speculated that the time taken [to carry out the assessment] is a consideration”. Mr Lefroy opines that “it is extraordinary both to incur so much additional cost to the taxpayer and to cause such a devastating impact on the village communities [of Ingestre, Hopton and Marston, that lie in the path of Route C] simply to avoid an Appropriate Assessment” (see footnote 5).

Mr Lefroy also raises the question of whether switching to Route C legitimately avoids the need for an appropriate assessment. In considering this point, it helpful to recognise the Waddenzee judgment made by the European Court of Justice (see footnote 6). This judgement has implications for the standard of proof that HRA screening must achieve, and these have been conveniently summarised in a government publication, which makes clear that a competent authority must be “certain” that there will be no adverse effects on the conservation site. In this respect, the publication explains that certainty requires that “no reasonable scientific doubt remains as to the absence of such effects” and requires that competent authorities must be “convinced” that there will be no adverse effects (see footnote 7).

There are substantive grounds for holding the view that the HRA Screening Report for Pasturefields Salt Marsh has not attained the standard of proof required by the Waddenzee judgment, and I will investigate these grounds in my next posting.

(To be continued …)

Footnotes:

  1. The map that has been reproduced is an inset of Figure 10 on page 69 of the publication High Speed Two Phase 2a: West Midlands to Crewe Working Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report Volume 1 appendix: Alternatives report, HS2 Ltd, September 2016.
  2. See paragraph 9.1.1 in the unpublished HS2 Phase 2 HRA Screening Report for Pasturefields Salt Marsh, Environmental Resources Management (ERM) for HS2 Ltd, September 2012, which concludes that “other route options were they to follow a similar southern alignment past Pasturefields Salt Marsh SAC at a similar or greater distance from the SAC” do not require an appropriate assessment.
  3. See paragraph 4.3.8 in the draft EIA alternatives report.
  4. See paragraph 1.1.3 in the unpublished HS2 Phase 2 HRA Screening Report for Pasturefields Salt Marsh.
  5. The quotes that I have attributed to Mr Lefroy may be found on page 9 of the document High Speed Rail 2 (Phase Two) Response to the Phase Two Route Consultation, Jeremy Lefroy MP, January 2014.
  6. See the judgement in Case C-127/02, Landelijke Vereniging tot Behoud van de Waddenzee and Nederlandse Vereniging tot Bescherming van Vogels v Staatssecretaris van Landbouw, Natuurbeheer en Visserij, European Court of Justice in Grand Chamber, 7th September 2004.
  7. See paragraph 21 in the document Government Circular: Biodiversity and geological conservation – Statutory obligations and their impact within the planning system, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister/ Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, ODPM Circular 06/2005 and Defra Circular 01/2005, 16thAugust 2005.

Acknowledgements:

I am very grateful to Cllr Michael Woodhouse of Ingestre with Tixall Parish Council for hosting and guiding my fact-finding visit to Ingestre, providing background information and copies of unpublished documents, checking the factual content of this blog, and for his helpful suggestions for improvements.

The Ordinance Survey mapping upon which the HS2 Ltd routes are overlaid has been reproduced in accordance with the principles of fair dealing as set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.  On this basis, this mapping is:

Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO.

© Crown Copyright. All rights reserved.