With flood warnings still in place across the UK, we thought it was time to revisit this article from 18 months ago, written by Lizzy Williams, one of the founders of Stop HS2.
We all are familiar with the bible’s account of Noah building his ark to escape an impending flood. While Noah was building an ark he preached to his neighbours but no one listened, mocking him instead.
Those of us who oppose HS2 know it is a real threat. Many dismiss our concern believing it will never happen but those of us who have studied the facts know the truth. The truth is HS2 will be a man made environmental disaster and unless we fight it will be forced upon us and generations to come.
One of the greatest environmental impacts in Britain of HS2 will be in relation to flooding.
Below is an extract from the Appraisal of Sustainability: A Report for HS2 Non Technical Summary” by Booz & Co and Temple (it’s on p6).
“Table 1 – HS2 Sustainable Design Aims
UK priority 1: reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change
- Managing energy
The project shall consider the energy efficiency of the operation of trains and rail infrastructure (commensurate with the detail of design), as well as the energy requirements of construction and materials, as a means of establishing low energy priorities within the scheme as a whole.
- Managing flood risk
The project shall aim to ensure no increase in flood risk. This will be achieved by maintaining overall flood storage capacity (through, in order of priority, option selection that avoids flood plains, infrastructure design and flood compensation) and minimising disruption of flood flows”
STOPHS2 founding member and former Chair, Lizzy Williams walked the proposed route of HS2 in September 2010 and saw for herself the huge impact this huge project could have on the flood plains it passes through. Lizzy was shocked that so much of the route was indeed open flood plain (perhaps undeveloped because it floods!?!) and that no flood profiling has been carried out in relation to the HS2 proposal. Indeed the environmental impact assessment is only just beginning to be carried out, two years after the route was publicly announced, and after the pubic consultation.
Put a brick in a bucket of water and what happens? The water level rises.
Lizzy has had many years experience of developing in and adjacent to flood plains and has worked very closely with the Environment Agency on many projects in assessing the associated risks of development within a floodplain. “The Environment Agency does not want water displaced but on rare occasions mitigation can be possible. However that normally means extensive earthworks over large areas. Crossing all the flood plains that HS2 will, it is difficult to see how on earth this will be possible without destroying much more land or risking more flooding.
“Every millilitre of water displaced has to be mitigated for. The volume of concrete and materials needed to construct HS2 will have a huge impact on flood plains. The development will affect several major rivers including the Thame, Severn, Great Ouse and Lea, not to mention all the smaller natural watercourses it will cross and in some cases divert. In some cases, rivers such as the Misbourne are to be tunnelled under. Ok, but what then happens to the displaced groundwater? The implications from a contamination point of view are also seriously concerning.”
Flood profiling is a complex issue. It can take years of work to develop comprehensive projections.
Looking at the increasing flooding problems in Britain, much of which is being attributed to unwise development in flood plains, it would be common sense to assume that a project with the landtake of HS2 will severely impact the potential for flooding not just along the line but downstream on every river and watercourse affected. This could affect many more lives, homes and natural habitats than people realise.
There is only so much development our small island can reasonably take. Is HS2 reasonable? No it is not. There is NO environmental case for HS2.