Last Tuesday, Robert Syms, chair of the HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee made a statement about the options of Chilterns tunnelling. In what is a clear blow to people living and working in the Chilterns, they are not in favour of a long tunnel there, but believe that there is a case for extending the South Heath green tunnel and a longer tunnel near Wendover.
There has been mixed reaction to the news.
The Woodland Trust have pointed out that a South Heath extension could save three ancient woodlands: Mantle’s Wood, Sibley’s Coppice and Farthings Wood in Buckinghamshire, totalling 9.2 hectares.
These woods are part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which provides habitat for the rare stag beetle, red kites, butterflies such as the orange tip and speckled wood as well as bluebells.
Nikki Williams, Head of Campaigning at the Woodland Trust, said:
“We have campaigned publically, lobbied behind the scenes, submitted reams of evidence to HS2 Ltd and the Committee, and our senior conservation advisor, Richard Barnes, even joined the official bus tour with the HS2 Select Committee recently on a visit to the Chilterns.
“There are still 59 more ancient woods in the firing line on Phase 1 alone and we will continue to raise the need to avoid as much of this irreplaceable habitat as possible when we present evidence to the Committee in the coming months. We hope it will realise more must be done.”
The Woodland Trust have been asking people to tweet their support for the Tunnel extension:
Cheryl Gillan MP said
“I am delighted that the HS2 Select Committee have accepted that there should be more tunnelling to protect South Heath, Hyde Heath, Potter Row and the Chesham & Amersham constituency. The committee members have asked HS2 Ltd to work up the case for additional provisions based on what I have described as the bare minimum to protect the area. I know if this goes ahead it will bring great relief to more of my constituents for which I am very grateful. However, today’s hearing was bitter-sweet as the committee rejected the arguments for a full tunnel, which would have protected the whole of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”
Robert Syms’s statement is on the committee’s webpage:
First—on the long tunnel options, we have kept in mind the potential non-quantifiable effects of the project on the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty. On the evidence heard we are strongly of the view that the case for a long tunnel is not made out. Without prejudging the arguments we may hear from future petitioners we believe it is unlikely that an overwhelming case will be made out for the long tunnel options as we move forward into further hearings.
Secondly, we believe that the case has been made for an extension of the bored tunnel to the northern end of the South Heath green tunnel. This would not cause an overall delay to the scheme. We want reassurance on how far that option will result in a deepened cutting laterally to the west of the portal, and we want HS2 to evaluate the effects of a deepened cutting on the local area. Provided that review is satisfactory, we will direct the promoter to work up that proposal as an additional provision.
Thirdly, on Wendover, we are minded to recommend a southward extension of the currently proposed green tunnel, unless hs2 report back with a very convincing scheme of further mitigation, on which we expect a report back in September.