On Tuesday, the Government announced the National Planning Policy Framework, which sadly like the Communities Act will not apply to projects such as HS2 which has been automatically deemed to be in the ‘National Interests’. The planning framework, gives primacy to local plans but insists on ‘sustainable development’, leaving the interpretation of what is ‘sustainable’ very open. However, before it’s abolition in the cuts, the last statement which came from the Sustainable Development Commission was that not only is HS2 ‘Completely Unsustainable’, but it ‘Would require a massive ongoing subsidy for something which only benefits the richest in society’.
The 2005 UK Sustainable Development Strategy, sets out the five guiding principles for sustainability: living within the planet’s environmental limits; ensuring a strong, healthy and just society; achieving a sustainable economy; promoting good governance; and using sound science responsibly. It can be easily argued, as the SDC maintained that HS2 does not fulfil these requirements.
In the section on promoting sustainable transport, the document states;
“Smarter use of technologies can reduce the need to travel. The transport system needs to be balanced in favour of sustainable transport modes, giving people a real choice about how they travel.”
Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said;
“Just like the Communities Act which was supposed to give people more power in terms of developments taking place in their communities, HS2 completely bypasses the NPPF, because it has been deemed to be in the ‘national interests’. Those touting those claims should take a long hard look at the National Audit Office report into how HS1 has completely failed to live up to forecast which were pure fantasy and poor planning which has been completely repeated with HS2.”
“The NPPF has lots of nice words about protecting the green belt, but in his response to Greg Clark, the opposition spokesman Hilary Benn asked if the local planning authorities had been told about the plans for a new city between Coventry & Birmingham. Clark replied that he was ‘bemused’ by this story, but are we really to believe that these massive out of town stations, which are also planned for the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, won’t lead to massive green belt developments nearby? Of course they will, but it’s the last thing the Government want to admit.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, said
“On top of a massive growth in demand for travel which HS2 Ltd are predicted, the business case for the proposed railway relies on a quarter of the passengers only travelling because the railway has been built. This is already in clear conflict with other Department for Transport policies on reducing demand for travel, such as the Anywhere Working initiative. However, now, the National Planning Policy Framework makes explicit reference to ‘Smarter use of technologies can reduce the need to travel’.”
“HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport have stated that they expect the £33 billion HS2 project to be carbon neutral. The National Planning Policy Framework says that transport development should ‘support reductions in greenhouse gas emissions’. HS2 clearly does not meet this criterion, and should be cancelled as soon as possible.”
Steve Rodrick, Chief Officer of the Chilterns Conservation Board said,
“The best transport policies are those which reduce the need to travel, reduce the impact on the environment and boost economic activity. If the government was to apply its own policies to its own investment, rather than investing over £36 billion on a high speed railway it would invest serious money on very high capacity broadband. That is exactly what is happening in Australia, where they may even be a case for high speed rail. Instead, they are investing over 37 billion Australian dollars on a very high speed national broadband network. That surely is not just better for business, but better for the environment and you don’t have to wait 20 years for the benefits. It is a model that the UK should be adopting.”