HS2 and the environment - Environmental Audit Committee Contents

4  Monitoring and management

46. Effective monitoring of environmental losses and gains will be required to ensure that there is 'no net biodiversity loss' (Part 2) and that mitigations and offsetting (Part 3) are delivered as planned. HS2 Ecology Technical Group called for:

    an effective monitoring framework to inform this and future sustainable proposals (e.g. HS2 phase 2). Such a framework has not been outlined in the Environmental Statement and as such there is inadequate assurance that appropriate monitoring standards will be applied, and the response mechanisms that will ensure any issues are remedied effectively and efficiently.[107]

HS2 Ltd, however, emphasised the protections contained in the Environmental Statement regime:

    There are Environmental Minimum Requirements. That ultimately is an offer or a commitment that the Secretary of State will make before Parliament. Within that, the Code of Construction Practice, among other things, offers up protection and further consideration, a way of working with those knowledgeable others, statutory authorities—like Natural England, the Environment Agency and English Heritage—that we are safeguarding that environment in the right way.

    The Code of Construction Practice features a wide range of protection in one package. That will ultimately find its way into construction contracts and we will be preparing local Environmental Management Plans. ... That will say how we are going to approach local protection as the construction works take place. You need to understand that that does not preclude law like the Control of Pollution Act. It does not exclude the Environmental Protection Act for things like noise. And there are other consenting regimes that we will have to go through, and that we will have to put forward plans to local planning authorities to ensure that best practicable means are applied to that construction to afford protection to local communities.[108]

The Environment Agency told us that it was "still working with HS2 to understand and agree what that monitoring timeline might look like, and indeed ... who might be best placed to do that".[109]

47. On offsetting, the Environmental Statement suggests that such arrangements will be directly managed under the Hybrid Bill:

    It is the intention of the project to deliver the new habitats through powers under the Hybrid Bill ... The use of formal offsetting agreements with third parties is not envisaged to deliver any of the required measures at this stage, although such agreements may be required to deliver additional measures should these be required.[110]

Peter Miller of HS2 Ltd told us:

    Where we might end up handing over sites away from the lines—albeit, in part of the Hybrid Bill consideration at this stage—if there is a covenant over land, for example, and the arrangements would then be handed over to a landowner, or perhaps that land being handed on to Wildlife or Woodland Trusts, I think they will have a role and responsibility to ensure that that biodiversity is assured and they will monitor it. They do this sort of thing very well.[111]

The CLA thought that the management arrangements for offsetting were not clear.[112] Henry Robinson of the CLA described as "iniquitous" the possibility of HS2 Ltd using compulsory purchase, and the National Farmers' Union wanted farmers to have "the first offer" on potential offset land.[113]

48. The HS2 Ecology Technical Group believed that ongoing monitoring would be required for the time it would take to restore habitats, which would be 32 years or more under the terms of the offsetting metric (paragraph 37). That monitoring must be able to:

    inform future sustainable proposals under phase 2. Such a framework has not been outlined in the [phase 1] Environmental Statement and as such there is inadequate assurance that appropriate monitoring standards will be applied, and the response mechanisms that will ensure any issues are remedied effectively and efficiently ....[114]

They recommended that the Environmental Minimum Requirements and the Environmental Management Systems clearly define how the delivery of all aspects of the project would be monitored against baseline evaluations, be "evidenced within the Local Environmental Management Plans and be publically accountable".[115] The NFU pointed out that soils that were disturbed would need to be managed for up to a decade to restore their productivity.[116] Robert Goodwill MP, the Transport Under-secretary of State, told us

    The timescale for re-establishing ancient woodland is centuries. It is whether you can establish the habitat that will support the species that were in the ancient woodland, and establish the habitat that would develop over time into the sort of ancient woodland that was there before, and what degree of management would be needed to do that. It is a long-term project that we need to ensure continues to be managed in a way that will ensure that we get to that final location.[117]

49. The Environment Bank identified uncertainty, however, over future habitat management:

    Where habitats are to be passed on to different organisations to be managed,[118] what funding or management plans will accompany the sites to ensure ongoing management is appropriate? There is a need to demonstrate a fundamental understanding of both fiscal and contractual assurance in order to give the relevant confidence that the habitats will be delivered and secured for the long-term.[119]

It suggested that where "HS2 Ltd intend to manage any site for less than 20 years, the target condition [offsetting metric weighting] should be 'poor', and this will increase the amount of compensation offset habitat required".[120]

50. The prospects for environmental protections, mitigations and offsets being delivered hinges in part on the continued availability of funding for implementing and then monitoring such measures. The Department of Transport told us that:

    We have not taken the approach of having a pre-determined budget for mitigation and deciding how many of the significant effects this could avoid. Therefore, there is no fixed budget for environmental mitigation, it has simply been an inherent part of the project's design and costs guided by the commitments to environmental protection described above. The overall cost of the scheme, which includes these considerations, is set out in the Estimate of Expense.[121]

In his March 2014 review, the Chairman of HS2 Ltd, Sir David Higgins, stated that "… I have rejected any thought that the project should cut back on planned mitigation measures, whether noise or environmental".[122] Peter Miller of HS2 Ltd explained that there was "no particular line in our budget for monitoring", but that the cost of "monitoring overall is included in the cost build [of the project]".[123]

51. The HS2 Environmental Statement, and its associated documents and plans, provide a degree of environmental protection by specifying minimum requirements and standards. There is also a plan to appoint a Complaints Commissioner for construction-related matters. But these measures alone are not enough: HS2 Ltd can avoid adjustments if they are not considered 'reasonable' or 'practicable' (paragraph 69) and it has provided no separate budget to meet the cost of environmental protections.

52. The Government should establish a process to monitor all aspects of the environmental protections needed for HS2 for the 60 years following the start of construction and operation of the railway, including biodiversity mitigations, compensations and offsets. This process must be managed by an independent body, which should be tasked with monitoring and publicly reporting progress against the 'no net biodiversity loss' objective (paragraph 9). The Government should also establish detailed costings for monitoring and reporting and for the environmental protections being overseen, and ring-fence those environmental protections and a budget for them separate from the rest of the project.

107   HS2 Ecology Technical Group (HS2 037), para 6.2 Back

108   Q127 Back

109   Q86 Back

110   HS2 Ltd, Environmental Statement, Volume 5, Ecology Technical Note - Methodology for demonstrating no net loss in biodiversity (November 2013), para 1.5.7 Back

111   Q165 Back

112   Q47 Back

113   Q45; National Farmers' Union (HS2 032), para 5 Back

114   HS2 Ecology Technical Group (HS2 037), para 6.2  Back

115   ibid, para 6.2 Back

116   National Farmers' Union (HS2 032), para 4 Back

117   Q160 Back

118   HS2 Ltd, Environmental Statement, Volume 1, Introduction to the Environmental Statement, para 3.1.1: 9.8.8. Back

119   Environment Bank (HS2 023), para 25 Back

120   ibid, para 25 Back

121   Department for Transport (HS2 028), para 4.3 Back

122   Sir David Higgins, HS2 Plus (March 2014), p2 Back

123   Q167 Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2014
Prepared 7 April 2014