The power of 147 voices

In my blog Here comes more work (posted 3 May 2012) I reported on the publication of the HS2 Ltd document HS2 London to West Midlands EIA Scope and Methodology Report (EIA S&M report) and the limited consultation then taking place. I was asked to author a response to this consultation by my local parish council, which I duly did, and so I was interested in the contents of the recently-published document HS2 London to West Midlands EIA Scope and Methodology Consultation Summary Report (here). This document, written by the consultants that were responsible for the original EIA S&M report, analyses the responses to the consultation, responds to them and outlines any changes made to the EIA S&M report as a result. A new version of the EIA S&M report has also been published.

In my blog Comparisons are odious (posted 31 May 2012) I expressed concern that Chapter 3 of the EIA S&M report, as originally drafted, appears to signal the intention to ignore an important requirement of European Union Council Directive 85/337/EEC, as amended by Council Directive 97/11/EC. These Directives require that a document that reports the findings of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) – we call such a document the environmental statement (ES) in the UK – includes “an outline of the main alternatives studied by the developer and an indication of the main reasons for his choice, taking into account the environmental effects”.

The observation that I – sorry that should be my parish council – made against Chapter 3 of the EIA S&M report was that the requirement expressed in the last six words of that quote from the EU Directives was not reflected in the text of that chapter; indeed, it appeared to be the clear intention to specifically exclude any comparisons of the environmental impacts of alternative solutions from the ES, hence the title of my blog that I posted in May.

It is clear from the contents of HS2 London to West Midlands EIA Scope and Methodology Consultation Summary Report, and Section 6.6 on page 12 in particular, that I was not alone in making this observation. The document tells us that “there were 147 comments made in relation to the Reporting of Alternatives in the ES section (Section 3) of the draft SMR”. Whilst I am sure that the particulars of each of these comments differed, it is clear from the remarks in Section 6.6 that they shared the general theme of the need to justify why the HS2 proposal had been chosen in preference to other solutions. We are told elsewhere in HS2 London to West Midlands EIA Scope and Methodology Consultation Summary Report that “the consultation process led to 166 separate responses, which included 44 from individuals and 122 from organisations”. So it looks to me that most responses picked up on this single issue.

I would like to think that it was the combined force of all these 147 voices that led to HS2 Ltd making a concession on this point, but I feel that it was those of us who quoted the EU Directives that won the day. In the new issue of the EIA S&M report paragraph 3.1.6, on page 22, has been amended, and now reads:

“The ES will provide an outline of the main alternatives studied by HS2 Ltd and DfT and the main reasons for the choice taking environmental effects into account. The main alternatives to be described will include the following main groups:”

The phrase in the amended text which I have highlighted is too close to the text of the EU Directives to be a coincidence; presumably HS2 Ltd realised that it would not be very sensible to be seen to be in breach of EU requirements.

The remaining problem is of course that the EIA S&M report does not prescribe how the ES will achieve the stated aim of taking the environmental effects of alternatives into account. It looks like we will have to wait for the draft ES to be published for consultation to see whether what HS2 Ltd has done is sufficient; if we don’t think it is then we will have to raise the issue again.

What it is clear we will not see is a “full EIA” for each of the alternatives. We are told in HS2 London to West Midlands EIA Scope and Methodology Consultation Summary Report that some respondents requested this. I think that HS2 Ltd is probably right to reject this approach as being well in excess of what the EU Directives are seeking.

PS: The response to the consultation submitted by Cubbington Parish Council, to which I refer in this blog, may be found here.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on November 16, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    A full EIA for each alternative v the AOS is tremendous gap. Sorry but if you trace the route templates and route maps you can see how route 3 was formed and the purpose of EIA is to undertake the context corridor review or review before determining the route. Here you had routes as assumptions and no local detailled knowledge. HS2 is now discussion aerial images that some had in April 2011 but were not used in 2009 and 2010.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Lydia Dustbin on November 17, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    I fell asleep reading this! Why use a thousand words when one will do?

    Reply

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