To suggest HS2 will have no significant impact on Colne Valley “defies belief” says Park
The Colne Valley Park has hit out at language in the HS2 Environmental Statement that suggests there will be “no significant impact” on the regional park.
The Colne Valley Park Community Interest Company (CIC) has criticised claims made on the impact of HS2. In a draft of its response to HS2’s Environmental Statement issued to member organisations it has disputed key statements.
The CIC says that if HS2 has to go through the regional park then it should be tunnelled. But accepting that is unlikely, it says significant mitigation “over and above that currently proposed by HS2” must be implemented to address and compensate for the huge impact on local communities, local landscapes and the role they serve as the first taste of countryside to the west of London.
The response says that tunnels to minimise construction impacts on the Chilterns and urban west London will place more environmental and social pressure on the landscape and communities within the regional park.
The draft report stresses the net loss in farmland throughout the Colne Valley Park with direct land take and other cumulative effects further weakening the farming infrastructure on the edge of London.
It challenges the assumption that agricultural land will be restored to pre-existing quality, pointing out that farmland is rarely as good once ‘restored’ and fields will be divided by railway, access roads, balancing ponds, cuttings & embankments, new watercourses making farming less economically viable.
To describe this as “not significant” defies belief!
But the strongest challenge is made to the assertion that HS2 will have minimal impacts on the Colne Valley.
The Colne Valley Park CIC finds the statement that “….there will not be a significant impact on the Colne Valley Regional Park” unbelievable! In fact the impact on the regional park will be huge – footpaths, views, biodiversity, recreation, ... noise, traffic, landscape change etc….. not to mention the reputational damage to the Park.
It says land within the park will be required for a lot more than the two and a half years claimed for construction and the huge amount of land permanently taken would permanently impact the ability of the Park to deliver against its objectives.
The CIC says “significant measures” are required to mitigate for the construction and operational effects on agriculture in this part of the Colne Valley Park and suggests:
- Following construction, fields in the ‘temporary land take’ (particularly those between the M25 and A412) are placed under a covenant to ensure they remain as green space able to deliver one or more of the Colne Valley Parks objectives. This is to stop the land becoming unused, unmanaged and gradually deteriorating or being developed in the medium/long term in direct contradiction of Local Authority plans and the Colne Valley Park objectives.
- All embankments and cuttings (non engineering) that will be unable to be farmed are used to create chalk grassland using spoil from the tunnel. An endowment is allocated for future management and maintenance in line with the Colne Valley Park’s biodiversity and landscape objectives.
- A package of support is provided to remaining farm holdings adjacent to the route to improve the viability and long term future of farmland to directly mitigate for the huge loss of farmland. This could be achieved through investment in the Colne Valley Rural Development Forum to provide support to the remaining farms in the Colne Valley as direct mitigation for loss of productive farmland on the edge of London.
The Park also criticised “basic mistakes” by HS2 in the plans and documents submitted which include incorrect names and properties mapped to the wrong place. The CIC says these mistakes give a misleading impression of the impact and makes it very difficult for local people to make informed comments.