High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from English Heritage (HSR 87)


1.  English Heritage is the UK Government's statutory adviser and a statutory consultee on all aspects of the historic environment and its heritage assets. This includes archaeology on land and under water, historic buildings sites and areas, designated landscapes and the historic elements of the wider landscape. This memorandum of evidence focuses on question 6.2 in the call for evidence: Are environmental costs and benefits (including in relation to noise) correctly accounted for in the business case?

2.  English Heritage is considering closely the details set out in the Government's consultation on high speed rail and associated Appraisal of Sustainability (AoS). We are investigating which historic places will be affected by the proposed route, and evaluating the nature of that impact. In doing this we will consider both demolitions and effects on the setting of important heritage, such as listed buildings and scheduled monuments. It is not English Heritage's role to take a position on whether the line should go ahead or not.

3.  In summary, English Heritage believes that without additional work to identify those historic assets outside the 350m buffer zone where the setting will be adversely affected and, ideally, on the currently unknown sites of archaeological interest within the corridor, the full extent to which the stated sustainability objective for cultural heritage is met by this route option cannot be properly judged.


4.  The Appraisal of Sustainability sets out the impacts upon designated assets and evaluates whether they are supportive of the objective to "preserve and protect archaeological assets/historic buildings/historic landscapes". No grade I or II* listed buildings are directly impacted (ie within the anticipated land take for construction). Two scheduled monuments, three grade II* registered parks and gardens and 15 grade II listed buildings are directly impacted. Two grade II* listed buildings would be close to the construction, which would need to be carefully managed to minimise potential impact.

5.  The appraisal also considers a 350m buffer either side of the line. This includes 11 grade I and grade II* listed buildings and 274 grade II listed buildings. No assessment is given of the scale of the impact upon the setting of these assets. The desktop nature of the exercise means that no consideration been given to whether, given the changing landscape features, 350m is a sufficient buffer for all the route. Some important assets well beyond 350m will be impacted in some way (eg their setting) by the new line.


6.  The AoS appropriately considers that the impacts on the GII* registered parks and gardens are highly unsupportive of the heritage objective. However, the direct impacts on two scheduled monuments (Grim's Ditch in the Chilterns and a Roman villa site in the vicinity of Edgcote), likely to result in substantial harm, have been appraised as a lower level of impact. The loss of such nationally significant monuments ought to be appraised as a significant impact. The AoS also erroneously categorises Grade II buildings as regionally important: as a national designation, this is inaccurate and must be changed.

7.  It should be noted that there may be as yet unrecognised nationally important archaeological assets that would suffer substantial harm. Although these cannot be appraised at this stage, their possibility means that the existing impact assessment is only partial.

8.  We are also aware of the significant impact on landscape, including the historic landscape. We are engaged with the lead government agency on landscape issues, Natural England, and we anticipate that they will respond fully on this matter.


9.  English Heritage will continue to work with HS2 to minimise impacts where possible. However, the scope to do this will be limited owing to engineering constraints. While working with HS2 to minimise any impacts, we will also seek to mitigate them where unavoidable. This may include the use of good design to minimise landscape impacts, and archaeological and building investigation and recording. Where impacts are substantial and unavoidable, the opportunity to offset the harm through enhancements elsewhere will be identified, as was the case at Cobham Hall in Kent for High Speed One. In line with the Government's objectives, English Heritage will advise that opportunities are taken to capture evidence from the historic environment and to make it publicly available, particularly where a heritage asset is to be lost. This process should be informed by an innovative and coordinated approach to maximise the benefit to the body of knowledge.


10.  This memorandum does not aim to reflect the views of other organisations within the heritage sector. We expect that HS2, if appropriate, will liaise with those organisations separately.

May 2011

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Prepared 8 November 2011