This is a guest post by Shirley Judges, writing about the Westminster Hall debate on 13th July.
Susan Elan Jones’s inaccuracies and inconsistencies were at their height in relation to the Chiltern Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. ‘I totally agree that areas of outstanding natural beauty must be protected’, she cried. ‘Indeed, a new such area is on its way in my constituency. I believe that they must be protected and preserved wherever possible’ – except in the Chilterns it would seem. She went on to claim that ‘In fact, all but 1.2 miles of the route through the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty will be in tunnels, and one cannot get much less obtrusive than that. We will not be able to see it—it will be under the ground.’
Susan, this is just wrong. A short section will be in a tunnel, another even shorter section will be cut and covered. Some of the rest will be in a trench gouging through thew heart of the AONB and some will be on a viaduct – you can’t get much more visually intrusive than that. She then goes on to make the astonishing claim that ‘Other parts of the route will… run alongside motorways.’ At no point does HS2 run alongside a motorway. And as for the claim that the A413 is a ‘major transport corridor’, that’s like comparing the A494 with the M1 because it connects Dolgeliau through to Liverpool. The point about AONBs is that they are protected in the national interest and for the benefit of people who visit them. Over 50 million visitors a year visit the Chilterns – it is the nearest AONB to London. The central Chilterns can be reached by Tube, so it’s relatively cheap to get to and you don’t need a car – but that’s the part that will be irrevocably damaged by HS2. The effects of noise from HS2 are unknown as HS2 Ltd admits when questioned; but they also admit that there will be ‘some noise’. In the AONB, as elsewhere along the route, most of the route is through open, undisturbed countryside. The intermittent peaks and troughs of noise from HS2 will destroy the tranquillity of areas people come to for the sake of peace and quiet. And Mrs Elan Jones shouldn’t get too excited about an AONB in her constituency because if HS2 goes through it will show that a protected landscape designation isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.