You weren’t supposed to read that

Environmental aspects of the 51m consultation response, part 4

In my previous blog (Scoring an own goal, posted 22 Sep) I explained how the sustainability assessment that is contained in the massive table in section 2 of Volume 2 of the Appraisal of Sustainability (AoS) had been carried out. I think you need a particularly well developed sense of bloody-mindedness to have reached Volume 2, after presumably slogging through the one hundred and thirty pages of Volume 1, with sufficient enthusiasm to launch into this table and work out what it all means; hence the title of this blog.

Indeed if it hadn’t been for the comments on this assessment made by Ian Thynne in his Appendix 13 to the consultation response made by the 51m alliance (available here), I probably wouldn’t have looked too closely at section 2.

In paragraph 13.4 of his Appendix 13, Ian summarises the results of the work done for HS2 Ltd in his own table. He has made his assessment using the summary table in section 1 of Volume 2 of the AoS and at the “key sustainability issues” level, so there are eighteen scores in his table. He has achieved this by looking at the spread of individual ratings at the “evaluation criteria” level within each key sustainability issues. His findings are:

Two key sustainability issues have been rated “highly unsupportive”.

Two key sustainability issues have been rated “unsupportive” to “highly unsupportive”.

Four key sustainability issues have been rated “unsupportive”.

Two key sustainability issues have been rated “unsupportive” to “neutral”.

So ten of the eighteen key sustainability issues have been rated, by consultants working for HS2 Ltd remember, as a “thumbs down” for the sustainability of HS2. However, the picture is actually worse than this.

The key sustainability issue “air quality” has been rated “unknown”, due to “uncertainty about design details”, but HS2 Ltd’s consultants have admitted in a note in their table that “the proposed route would potentially be unsupportive of the objective”.

The key sustainability issue “resource use” has been rated “unknown”, due to “insufficient information” being available on the “detailed design”, but a note in the table admits that “it can be assumed that the proposed route would be unsupportive of this objective overall”.

The key sustainability issue “waste generation” has been rated “unsupportive” regarding non-hazardous waste and “unknown” regarding hazardous waste, due to having “insufficient” information to “evaluate volumes of hazardous waste to be treated”. Irrespective of the situation with hazardous waste, this key sustainability issue merits an “unsupportive” rating, at least.

It seems reasonable to add these three to the “debit” list, making thirteen out of eighteen key sustainability issues where HS2 fails the sustainability test.

The AoS rating is also “unknown” on “greenhouse gases”. The note in the table in this case is “There is a wide range of uncertainty associated with operational impacts, which may result either in a net positive or net negative benefit.” Ian ventures that “in reality” this rating is “likely to be highly unsupportive”, but I think that we can be charitable and concede it as “unknown”.

“Accessibility” has some “unsupportive” and some “supportive” components; overall a “neutral” rating seems appropriate. “Security and safety” has one “neutral” component and one “unknown” component; overall, Ian has rated it “neutral”.

This leaves two key sustainability issue categories: “economic prosperity”; and “economic welfare”. These are the only two that the AoS rates with “supportive” or “highly supportive” components. Of course, the economic benefits of HS2 are by no means universally accepted; Ian says “51m believes that the economic case for HS2 is seriously flawed”.

In summary, Ian Thynne claims that “the scheme is unsupportive of any of the environmental objectives” and that it “will be unsupportive or neutral of all but the economic objectives”. He also cautions:

“The AoS has only assessed regional and national impacts and no local impacts have been considered in any detail. Consequently, HS2 is likely to have much more of negative impact than that already acknowledged by HS2 Ltd.”

So HS2 Ltd has succeeded in proving what many of us have been saying – HS2 is not a sustainable project. What a spectacular own goal!

I think that the final words should be Ian Thynne’s:

“The AoS concludes that HS2 is effectively an ‘unsustainable’ project in all but the economic categories. For the reasons set out in the main response 51m considers that the economic case is fundamentally flawed and that HS2 will not meet its economic objectives. The Government’s White Paper on transport titled ‘Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon’ sets out an equitable approach to transport infrastructure that places economic expansion alongside environmental and social growth. Furthermore, sustainable development is at the heart of the planning process for all new development. New infrastructure projects, even if they are considered essential for the national interest, are not exempt from being carried out in a sustainable way.”

One response to this post.

  1. Brilliant Peter. Well done for spotting all this and for ploughing through it.


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