173.Standing Order 27A of the House of Commons requires that any organisation depositing a Bill must deposit an accompanying Environmental Statement in both the Houses which should be available for inspection by the public. The Environmental Statement must contain details on the likely significant effects on the environment of the proposed scheme. Standing Order No. 224A allows for a 56 day period, after the first publication of the notice, for comments to be made to the Secretary of State about the contents of the Environmental Statement. As mentioned above the independent assessor prepares a report on these comments for Parliament.
174.The Environmental Statement should include measures to avoid, prevent, reduce and monitor the effects that the building of the railway will have on the environment which it will disturb. Environmental impacts will be monitored by the nominated undertaker or the relevant planning authorities or regulatory authorities.
175.The Secretary of State established a set of Environmental Minimum Requirements (EMR) which will apply, through contracts, to the nominated undertaker and its contractors who carry out the work both during the construction and operation of the Scheme. Environmental Minimum Requirements include general principles, the Code of Construction Practice, an Environmental Memorandum, a Planning Memorandum and a Heritage Memorandum.
176.In order to comply with the relevant Standing Order HS2 undertook the following process to inform the Environmental Statement. Firstly, an Environmental Impact Assessment process was developed. This involved several stages:
a)A scoping and methodology report;
b)Collection and collation of data to construct a baseline measurement of current environmental conditions close to the proposed Scheme;
c)Collection and collation of data to construct a future baseline of assumptions about the future environmental conditions;
d)Incorporation of environmental data to be included in the design (and any suitable alternatives) as the design develops;
e)An assessment of environmental benefits and environmental concerns, development and assessment of mitigation proposals and residual effects of the works;
f)The approach to engagement and consultation with the public (individuals, businesses and communities) affected by the proposed scheme to aid the development of the design;
g)Refinement of the proposed scheme design based on the evidence collated;
h)Finalisation of the Environmental Statement (which is submitted with the hybrid Bill).
177.HS2 will create a “green corridor” along the route to not only screen the railway and reduce the visual effect on the local landscape but also to create new habitats for existing and relocated wildlife. HS2 will move protected species to new locations. The Scheme will include underpasses and green bridges for access routes.
178.Throughout our hearings we have heard from HS2 that the underlying principles of ecological compensation and mitigation have been adopted. This means that where it is proposed to remove woodland and trees that there will be new planting at another place in order to create a new landscape. The Scheme’s aim is to join up small fragmented habitats and reconnect existing areas that may have been temporarily severed. Landscape design and tree planting will be used for visual screening and to reduce the effect of noise on local communities. We have been told that existing trees which are to remain in situ will be protected during construction.
179.The Woodland Trust petitioned for the single long tunnel option between Whitmore Heath and Madeley in order to protect the ancient semi-natural woodland at Whitmore Wood. The Committee reported on this in its First Special Report.
180.Since that Report we have been made aware that HS2 has stated that in some areas along the route some of the soils proposed for translocation are subject to the Plant Health (Forestry) Order 2005 No. 2517. This Order prohibits all imports of ash seeds, plants and trees to prevent the spread of dieback of ash (Chalara) to regions where the disease is not present. Ash is common in lowland England. We welcome the fact that HS2 is in dialogue with the Forestry Commission about this issue for HS2 Phase 1 and understand that the Forestry Commission will issue HS2 with a single Statutory Plant Notice to authorise soil translocation activity subject to certain conditions being met. We urge HS2 to ensure that all conditions are fully met so to ensure that the risk of the spread of Chalara is minimised.
181.We expect HS2 to ensure that the lessons learned from soil translocation in HS2 Phase 1 are embedded in any work for HS2 Phase 2a and beyond, and shared more widely so that other infrastructure projects may benefit from the studies.
182.The Woodland Trust appeared again before the Committee on 11 July 2018. It did not think it appropriate for HS2 to source seeds and trees for planting along the route from the continent. HS2 has given the Woodland Trust an assurance that all trees for the proposed Scheme will be grown in the United Kingdom. We support this view.
183.The Trust’s position is that no irreplaceable habitat including individual trees should be removed for temporary works; HS2 has assured us that it will continue dialogue with the Woodland Trust to ensure that the risks to such trees are raised at an early stage of detailed design and we welcomed the assurance by Counsel for the Secretary of State that, as many as possible of the veteran trees identified as being at risk under temporary works which lie at the very edge of these areas would be preserved. Where this is not possible we expect mitigation measures to be incorporated into the detailed design where appropriate. The Trust further petitioned that where ancient woodland is lost that there should be compensation in the form of a planting ratio of 30 trees for each tree lost as recommended by Natural England at the end of Phase 1. Like our colleagues in the House of Lords, under Phase 1, we do not understand the rationale behind Natural England’s recommended planting ratio of 30:1 and therefore cannot endorse this. Nor would we wish to instruct HS2 to extend its land take. The farming community, who we have praised because of their flexible approach to this Scheme, would have to surrender more agricultural land to enable such a planting ratio. We are content with the existing planting ratio. We ask HS2 to ensure that mechanisms to control invasive and extraneous species are used in order to protect all new planting and translocated soils from disease and to promote further growth.
184.The Woodland Trust petitioned against AP2 and were due to return to petition the Committee but following negotiations with HS2 reached an agreement and withdrew their petition.
185.Several Wildlife Trusts petitioned us to secure the best possible outcomes for displaced wildlife and their habitats.
186.Both the Royal Society Wildlife Trust and the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust raised concerns about the impact of the Scheme on the ecology of the area. The Royal Society Wildlife Trust questioned the accuracy of the information in the Environmental Statement and the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust petitioned for funding to complete environmental surveys of Staffordshire. Both petitioners argued that there ought to be a net biodiversity gain from the Scheme and that by the establishment of an independent ecology review group the impact of the Scheme could be monitored. They raised a concern about the saltmarsh habitat close to Lionlodge Court.
187.HS2 gave undertakings to consult Natural England, and to liaise with members of the Ecological Review Group. It will be the responsibility of the Nominated Undertaker to monitor and report against the no net loss calculation during the construction of the railway and to mitigate and provide suitable alternative habitats where possible.
188.The Trust was concerned about the loss of wildlife habitat and broadleaf woodland and wildflower grassland, as well as a site primarily designated for farmland birds. The Trust also raised concerns about maintaining the water vole population of Cheshire on which we have made our decision (in paragraph 88 above).
189.HS2 stated that the Environmental Statement did not include all breeds of birds, but had identified the most significant species that need to be taken into account, and this did not mean that HS2 would ignore other species of birds.
190.HS2 have stated that its aim, during the design of the Scheme, has been to avoid taking the highest quality agricultural land. Soil that is to be displaced will be removed and stored before any construction begins. This soil will be reinstated after any construction so that the land may recover.
191.We understand the importance of forward planning because of the seasonal nature of agricultural planting and work. It is for this reason that we have already directed HS2 to free farmers from the requirement to pay for maintenance costs of access tracks across land that has been compulsorily purchased by HS2.
192.The Country Land and Business Association was due to appear before the Committee on 30 April but before their appearance accepted an assurance from Counsel for the Secretary of State that the Nominated Undertaker will establish an agricultural liaison service staffed by individuals experienced in agricultural matters who will be in place and contactable by telephone 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, during the construction of HS2 works on agricultural land. Names and contact details of the agricultural liaison service provider or providers will be supplied to the CLBA before he or she takes up the post, so that the CLBA can communicate contact details to its members. Furthermore the agricultural liaison service provider will meet the CBLA at least once every three months to discuss the activities of this new body. We hope that this service works well.
193.The NFU did petition that day and returned on 24 April 2019. It was concerned the Bill allowed the Nominated Undertaker to exercise powers of temporary land take under Schedules 15 and 16 during the lengthy construction period and then to use provisions in Clause 4 for that land to be permanently taken for permanent works. This would result in delays to full compensation payments for the capital value of the land which could present farmers with cash flow problems. It argued that the Nominated Undertakers should be required to provide interim payments for losses suffered as a result of the exercise of powers under Schedules 15 and 16. HS2 said that it would do this in certain cases.
194.The NFU argued that notice periods given by HS2 for accessing land were too short. Preliminary work on a railway requires multiple visits to conduct surveys. The NFU requested a period of three months notice for access to land to be taken for both permanent and temporary purposes. We raised this with the Government and the Secretary of State told us that he would “offer a further assurance to the National Farmers Union (NFU) that for temporary possessions under Part 1 of Schedule 15 of the Bill, the Nominated Undertaker (NU) will provide at least 3 months notice to landowners of possession, save for where it has been agreed with the landowner that a shorter notice period is acceptable.”
195.On 25 June 2018 we heard from Counsel for HS2 that the NFU Assurances were divided into two parts:
a)Part A - are of general applicability, for example the setting up of an agricultural liaison service (q4)
b)Part B - are specific assurances given to particular farmers on a case by case basis.
The Farmers and Growers guide was developed following representations in Committee from the NFU in November 2014 on the HS2 Phase 1 Bill. The guide covers a range of matters which at that time were captured as a single entry on the Register of Assurances and Undertakings. At that time it was suggested that this formed the basis for a guide for farmers and growers produced by HS2 in non-technical/non-legal language.
196.The NFU were concerned that farmers who had not petitioned against the Bill would not be entitled to the same protection regarding the part B assurances as those farmers who had petitioned. HS2 told us that it had reflected on these concerns and had now written to all farmers affected by the proposed scheme, including those who had not petitioned against the Bill. HS2 invited those farmers who had not petitioned to consider whether there were any assurances contained in Part B which might affect their own holding and should be offered to them. They asked farmers to respond by 31 January 2019. We would like the Government to include in its response to this report an update on the outcome of this process, and how many farmers requested assurances.
197.We became concerned about farmers being asked to pay for maintenance costs of access tracks across land that had been compulsorily purchased by HS2. We thought this unfair. The Government said in its response to our Second Special Report HS2 that
“where an access track would pass over land in more than one ownership currently, the Promoter proposes, at least in the first instance to retain ownership/control, and to grant rights of access to affected landowners. The Promoter will not in general include an obligation for the landowner to contribute to the cost of maintenance of the track. Instead, in the event of any damage being caused to the track or land by the landowner, it would be for the Promoter to rely on such rights and remedies as it may have at common law for damage caused as a result of unreasonable or excessive use. “
198.Government departments, under certain circumstances, are required to offer back surplus land to the former owner or the former owner’s successors at the current market value (under what are known as the Crichel Down rules). HS2 will operate under these rules. Land that is surplus to the Scheme’s requirement will be offered to the previous owner for purchase in the first instance at full market value. If the previous owner does not wish to purchase the land then it will be offered on the open market for sale.
199.We asked for agricultural and land specialists to be made available to those affected by the route. The NFU told us that there had been agricultural specialists’ consultation on Phase 1 but that this had not successfully carried over to Phase 2a where there had been ‘a complete breakdown’ of this valuable relationship. This is worrying as the HS2 Phase 2a route covers a large rural community and we recommend a relaunch and promotion of the Phase 1 arrangements for Phase 2a and beyond.
200.The Secretary of State informed us that before a visit to an affected landowner is undertaken, the HS2 stakeholder manager would liaise with technical experts within HS2 Ltd (eg engineers, environmental specialists and land and property surveyors) to understand the issue that the landowner is raising, identifying potential solutions and agreeing which technical experts should accompany them. HS2 acknowledged that there was a shortage of experts and if the needs of the stakeholder were not being met then the stakeholder could raise the issues through the complaints process.
201.We remain concerned about insufficient notice periods for temporary possession of land. HS2 has offered two assurances in respect of notification and notice periods for temporary possession and has given an undertaking to provide a minimum notice period of three months. We remain concerned. HS2 should give three clear months’ notice of the quarter in which the land will be taken. Farming is a seasonal business and farmers need to plan before they plant crops.
202.A borrow pit is an area of land from which aggregates needed for the construction of the railway will be excavated. Quarried materials will be used to create railway embankments as to provide materials for tracks; to provide high quality fill for bridges, viaducts and culverts; and fill for ground treatment areas under embankments and railway foundations and associated works. HS2’s objective is to limit the use of materials and generation of waste.
203.Design of borrow pits must be developed in accordance with the relevant HS2 technical standards, and planning applications for borrow pits need to address flood risk, ecological, hydrogeological and public access issues alongside the impact on the local communities as a consequence of noise, dust, and visual and traffic impacts. Operation and restoration of borrow pits are covered by the commitments given by HS2 in the Environmental Minimum Standards and the draft Code of Construction practice. These documents outline the management and restoration principles to be used during and following the works. Temporary hoardings and security fences will be erected around the area of land to be used for the borrow pit, and in some cases may include acoustic screening and screening to reduce the visual impact. Schedule 17 to the Bill outlines the conditions of deemed planning permission and the grounds under which a local authority may refuse or approve plans. Manner and type of screening will be subject to planning approval by the relevant local authority.
204.The National Farmers Union raised concerns about the amount of land take for borrow pits at:
a)Crawley Land, Kings Bromley (up to 35 hectares)
b)Land adjacent to the A515 Lichfield Road, Kings Bromley (up to 12 hectares)
c)Land adjacent to Shaw Lane (up to 19 hectares)
d)Land adjacent to the proposed River Trent viaduct (up to 20 hectares)
e)Land west of Netherset Hey farm (up to 28 hectares)
f)Land to the North of Checkley Lane (up to 40 hectares)
205.The NFU argued that valuable farming land was to be used in this way, referring to a report that it had commissioned from the Mineral Surveying Associates. It said that there were four major mineral operators controlling in excess of 40Mt of proven sand and gravel reserves within the Kings Bromley area, all within reasonable haulage distance (6–9 miles). All the sites proposed by the Mineral Surveying Associates study have direct access onto the A38 and could supply HS2 without the need for significant disruption to local communities.
206.We found this an interesting proposal although we must bring into the balance the needs of the local communities who would be affected by additional road haulage traffic. The HS2 Phase 2a Borrow Pit Review published by HS2 in April 2019 has concluded that size of three of the six borrow pits can be reduced.
207.In our Second Special Report we said that we would expect to see any changes to borrow pits set out in AP2. The borrow pit review indicates that that HS2 has reviewed its baseline assumptions for the AP2 revised scheme earthworks design and has made a commitment to “continue to investigate opportunities for reducing the environmental effects arising from the earthworks and materials”.
208.The Borrow Pit review uses data contained in the January 2019 draft preliminary ground investigations report. Further geotechnical investigations will be undertaken during the development of the detailed design and “further ground investigations be undertaken between approximately 2020 and 2022 as the design is progressed through to the final design”. We have heard from Mr William Murray concerns about the geological data used for the area of Whitmore and HS2 should take this opportunity to ensure that Mr Murray’s concerns are addressed during this further work.
209.The Borrow Pit Review has been published on our website. This review is the first stage of intrusive geotechnical investigations and therefore not a definitive and final report. HS2 should continue to work with those affected by the locations of borrow pits and be mindful of the Committee’s desire for noise and visual screening to protect the local communities from noise and dust as so far as is possible.
210.The Inland Waterways Association represents 15,000 members. The Association works to protect the canals and waterways for the benefit of the public. The Association said that there was an assumption moorers will sail away to another location but that those living permanently on a narrow boat find it difficult to do this as moorings are not readily available: many are now taken by pleasure craft with restrictions to moor for only up to 14 days. Residents may be static over winter months. HS2 had argued that temporary and static moorings have transitory use. We have already commented on vulnerable occupants who may be disadvantaged in this way but reiterate here the necessity for a new scheme to protect such occupants.
211.In our Second Special Report we recommended that the Secretary of State made provision for the construction of a 5-metre high noise and visual barrier at the Great Haywood Marina in order to protect narrow boat owners living there. The Government told us that this would not be possible as HS2 had already given assurances to the National Trust about the viaduct in that the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty of Cannock Chase. The Government’s response says “while HS2 Ltd gave an indication of the engineering complexity of delivering higher barriers here, this did not cover the trade-off between barrier heights and their visual impacts” and that the 5-metre high noise barriers would impact on the view. We ask why this was not raised by Counsel for HS2 in Committee at the time of petitioning. In order for the process to work well for both petitioners and HS2 the Committee requires such evidence so that an informed and fair decision can be made. We expect the Trent and Sow Parklands and Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Group, (of which the Canal and River Trust is a member) to work with HS2 to find a suitable solution which will allay the concerns of the Inland Waterways Association about noise.
212.Many petitioners raised concerns about the increase in local traffic created by the Scheme and the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders. There is no doubt that Heavy Goods Vehicles and site traffic will increase on roads close to the enabling works for the Scheme. Traffic will peak at certain points. We saw many histograms throughout our hearings, which demonstrated anticipated patterns of traffic flows and peak volumes and dates. HS2 has been in discussion with County, Borough and Parish Councils about the increased traffic and undertakings and assurances have been given which are recorded in the register.
213.This is still of course of concern to communities. HS2 stated that traffic management is bound by the Code of Construction Practice. HS2 further stated that the HS2 Construction Commissioner will hold HS2 to account to ensure the safety of both users and contractors. It will be the role of the Commissioner to ensure that contractors abide by the undertakings and assurances given by HS2 to those affected. Issues should be raised through the HS2 helpdesk for investigation.
214.The Construction Commissioner also has a role to mediate in unresolved disputes between the project and individuals or bodies. The Commissioner makes reports and recommendations to HS2 on how to minimise or reduce the numbers of complaints. He will also act as an arbitrator for the Small Claims Scheme in the event that a dispute cannot be resolved through the normal process.
215.We have heard throughout the process that traffic will increase in volume at certain peaks of construction works: this will be managed through the draft Code of Construction Practice.
216.HS2 will inevitably create a degree of severance. Diversions have been agreed for several footpaths and bridleways, but a diversion of a few 100 metres, which would have no noticeable effect on a motor vehicle, might be a significant additional journey for pedestrians, cyclists and riders. We do not believe HS2 has been sufficiently proactive in finding ways to ameliorate the impact of severance for pedestrians, cyclists and horse-riders and would like to see some additional provision to compensate for the inevitable inconvenience. In addition, we believe it is in the best interests of HS2 as well as of the local population, for HS2 to enhance alternative routes for non-motorised transport where that will encourage non-motorised transport away from construction traffic roads.
217.The Staffordshire Bridleways Association told us that there was a risk that some roads which local people currently use as crossings would be stopped up. We heard also from Cyclists UK that they too use minor roads as do horse riders and pedestrians and parents with pushchairs and prams.
218.Furthermore there was a danger that verges, which are used as an escape route in an emergency, could be lost. The Bridleways Association said that the verge in the Hopton area on the A262 was a good example of a horse riding verge being sufficiently wide at 10–12 metres and being used by pedestrians too. HS2 now plans to upgrade the footpaths. We were told by HS2 that where roads already have characteristics which support horse-riding then that will form part of that objective in the detailed design.
219.Colwich Parish Council petitioned the Committee on 1 May 2019 arguing for an upgrade of the towpath of the Trent and Mersey Canal and work to expose the footpath within the highway verge of the A51 for the benefit of walkers. HS2 are now in discussions about using the Community Fund to upgrade the towpath and we were told that HS2 would be agreeing with the Parish Council an assurance on the upgrade of this footpath.
129 Published September 2016
130 HC 1085, First Special Report of Session 2017–19, paras 52–58
132 11 July 2018, (morning) QQ 11 -146
133 Para 3
134 11 July 2018, (morning), Q54
135 The Woodland Trust estimated this at 7:1, Minutes of Evidence, 11 July (morning), Q114
136 14 May 2019, Q210
137 HS2 Environmental Statement Non-technical summary, p.46
138 Para 54, Second Special Report
140 30 April 2018 (afternoon) Q 71
141 30 April (afternoon) Q 77
142 An example of the letter sent to farmers can be found at Annex B to the Government’s response to the Second Special Report, page 35
143 HC 1452, Second Special Report of Session 2017–19, para 54
144 Government Response to the Committee’s Second Special Report 2017–19, HC 1452, para 87
146 30 April 2018 (afternoon) Q 266
147 Letter from the Secretary of State to the Chair, 11 March 2019
148 A quarter being Jan-March, April-June, July-September, or October-December.
149 HS2 Paper E1: Control of Environmental Impacts
150 Information paper D12: Borrow Pits
151 Phase 2a Borrow Pit Review - Final, April 2019, Paras 3.312–3.3.16
152 Phase 2a Borrow Pit Review - Final, April 2019, para 3.5.2
Published: 7 June 2019