On Friday, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee announced a new inquiry into HS2, to with submissions requested by 7th March 2014. They say on their website:
The Environmental Audit Committee is launching an inquiry on environmental protection in Phase-1 of HS2.
The Government produced an Environmental Impact Assessment and consulted on it between April and May 2012. This allowed it to publish a Draft Environmental Statement for consultation in May 2013, and a Final Environmental Statement (in 5 volumes) for consultation in November 2013 alongside an HS2 Hybrid Bill which allows the construction of the line and acquisition of the land needed. The Environmental Statement sets out “the likely adverse and beneficial environmental effects of the scheme and proposed mitigation measures”.
Under the Hybrid Bill procedure, consultation responses will be summarised by an ‘independent assessor’, and used to inform the Second Reading on the Bill. A Hybrid Bill Committee will then take evidence from those affected by the route.
The Draft National Policy Statement for National Networks, published in December, sets out a ‘general principle’ that “development should aim to avoid significant harm to biodiversity and geological conservation interests, including through mitigation and consideration of reasonable alternatives. Where significant harm cannot be avoided or mitigated, as a last resort, appropriate compensation measures should be sought. The [Network project] applicant may also wish to make use of biodiversity offsetting in devising compensation proposals to counteract any impacts on biodiversity which cannot be avoided or mitigated.” [para 5.18]
On 22 January, the Supreme Court ruled that the Government had not breached the EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive or the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive in regard to HS2.
The Environmental Audit Committee inquiry will examine:
- The extent to which specific route-wide environmental impacts are adequately reflected and addressed in the Environmental Statement — specifically including: agriculture, forestry and soils; air quality; climate; ecology; and water resources and flood risk; and excluding Chilterns-specific matters; community and cultural heritage; landscape and visual aspect; noise/vibration; traffic and transport; and waste and material resources.
- The overarching systems and processes which will guide how environmental considerations are taken into account in the detailed routing of the track and the use of local environmental protection measures (but not examining the route itself).
- The arrangements for funding measures to protect biodiversity or to limit environmental impacts, and any constraints on such funding.
- How and where biodiversity offsetting will operate, and any limits that will be put on such offsetting.
The EAC’s inquiry will not examine the overall economic case for HS2, nor decisions about the route or local environmental concerns about particular sections of the line (areas which the HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee will examine).
How to submit written evidence
The Committee will take oral evidence later, and is now inviting evidence on these specific issues by Friday 7 March, although later submissions may also be accepted.
Evidence should be submitted through the Written Evidence portal on the inquiry page of this website.