Usel ES s, part 1

At the end of my blog An uplifting tale (posted 15 Nov 2014) I mentioned that, so far, we have seen two chartered environmentalists appear before the HS2 Select Committee expressing doubts about the quality of the environmental work that HS2 Ltd has carried out.

The first such witness was Kate Dewey, Planning and Conservation Officer for Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, who appeared before the Committee on the morning of Wednesday 22nd October in support of the Trust’s petition. She was led through her evidence by Emyr Thomas, Partner at Sharpe Pritchard and Parliamentary Agent, and both were complimented by Committee Member Sir Peter Bottomley MP who said that the “presentation and the questions of the witness” had been “exemplary”, and he hoped that others would use it as a model because it had been “relevant and precise”.

The Staffordshire Wildlife Trust hearing starts at paragraph 191 in the transcript and at about 10.48am in the video. In her evidence Ms Dewey identified the following points of issue with the environmental assessment and mitigation proposals in the HS2 Phase 1 Environmental Statement:

  • That HS2 Ltd has not used all of the available ecological data in its works to date. Ms Dewey gave examples of sources of data, including planning applications, that had not be accessed by HS2 Ltd.
  • That there are a number of important mammal species that have not been assessed in the Environmental Statement, including brown hare, polecat, hedgehog and some species of deer, contrary to HS2 Ltd’s own methodology statement, and that no explanation has been provided for these omissions. Ms Dewey also advised that, although there were records of pine marten in the general area around the proposed HS2 route, this species was not mentioned in the Environmental Statement.
  • That the policy of seeking to achieve no net loss of biodiversity is “not what an exemplar project should be aiming it”. The Trust agrees with the Commons Environmental Audit Committee that HS2 Ltd should be aiming for a net gain. The Trust is also seeking an assurance that the line-wide calculation of loss/gain will not result in concentrations of mitigation in certain areas to the detriment of others, and that any outputs from the community and environment fund would not be included in the calculation.
  • That there appears to be no mechanism proposed to address any net losses in biodiversity that may emerge as the project progresses.
  • That the concentration of offsetting measures within the land limits of the hybrid Bill may not be the most effective way of redressing biodiversity loss. The Trust is of the opinion that some alternative locations for habitat compensation “could actually perform a lot better” and encounter less opposition from landowners.
  • That ancient woodland and local wildlife sites should be restored, as part of the HS2 scheme – I was especially pleased to hear the Trust promoting this alternative approach to habitat offsetting as it is a particular bee in my bonnet (see my blog Enter Prince Charming, stage right, part 1, posted 15 May 2014) and is something that I intend to put to the Select Committee myself.
  • That, despite professing to adopt “green infrastructure” principles there is no indication so far that HS2 Ltd has employed these principles in the design of the railway.
  • That HS2 Ltd has not employed connectivity mapping to determine the best mitigation solutions. This technique has also been employed by Warwickshire County Council to critique the proposals in the Environmental Statement, and I will consider this further in my next posting.
  • That no information has been provided on how management and monitoring of habitats in perpetuity is to be secured and funded. The Trust wants HS2 Ltd to publish and consult, as soon as possible, on a draft scheme to secure this.

The Trust also echoed the Commons Environmental Audit Committee’s proposal that an independent body be set up for HS2 to monitor and report publicly on progress against biodiversity aims and enforce remedial measures. Whilst HS2 Ltd had responded positively to the Trust on this matter, the Trust feels that the proposals made lack teeth, particularly on enforcement.

As you might expect, the case was presented by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust convincingly and with authority, and was well supported by relevant evidence.

The response from HS2 Ltd was provided, in the greater part, by evidence given by the Head of Environment and Planning for HS2 Ltd, Peter Miller. I think that it is fair to characterise this response as generally conciliatory, rather than the more confrontation stance that we have seen HS2 Ltd take with some petitioners. I think that this was a wise course, as to try and face off the Trust would surely have been a risky strategy. However, most of the olive branches that Mr Miller felt able to offer to the Trust were expressed in general terms, rather than as substantive proposals.

But I think that we’d better leave that until my next posting.

(To be continued …)

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

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on November 20, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    What is the point of this approach of correcting the /HS2 partial records. The local people know the differences but for what purpose does the Hybrid Bill Select Committee spend the time on the differences please.

    Cannot see the purpose. HS2 have not followed an engagement process with the knowledgable local people or avoid areas of extreme concern.

    The process seems of little value.

    Reply

    • Time will tell Chris. At the moment it is the only show in town and worth pursuing on that ground alone.
      You must think that there is at least some point in the whole exercise, as I note that, despite having your original petition dismissed on locus grounds, you have also lodged a petition against the first Additional Provision (which has also been challenged on locus).

      Reply

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