The Weekend’s News

HS2 Ltd surveyors were spotted on some footpaths again this weekend, taking counts of usage.  We are still gathering data about which rights of way they are surveying, and when. So if you were using rights of way which cross the HS2 route this weekend, could you let us know whether there were any surveyors there, the day and approximate time you used it and any other information you think might be useful. Please email this to info@stophs2.org.

The National Trust is holding an information afternoon at Hartwell House near Aylesbury on Thursday 6th September and have asked for help in letting people know about it.

They say:

We are hosting a couple of open afternoon/evenings at Hartwell for local people, giving them the chance to explore the park and the potential impact of the proposed route of HS2. Members of the National Trust team will be on hand to explain our position on HS2 and find out what people think. The date is:

Thursday 6 September, 3-7pm

Entry is free and parking is available. The footpaths are uneven, so it’s advisable to wear ‘sensible’ footwear.

Several major newspapers had items relevant to HS2 over the weekend – as well as lots of speculation about cabinet reshuffles.  These will clearly affect whether Justine Greening escapes from the Department for Transport, where she has clear conflicts of interest between national aviation policy and local constituency matters. During the last election, she used her campaign against a third runway at Heathrow as part of her election strategy.

The Telegraph reported – Countryside ‘devalued to make way for HS2’ – that ‘The Government has quietly cut the “landscape value” it assigns to some of England’s finest countryside by up to 90 per cent.’

In an official 2010 assessment by HS2 Ltd, which is building the line, the 109-mile route from London to Birmingham was estimated to cause £4.3 billion of damage to the landscape… A new assessment by the Department for Transport estimated that the impact damage for the route is £957 million, 78 per cent lower.

The valuation system classifies open space into seven categories. The most valuable is urban parkland. AONBs and other unspoiled natural land are the second most valuable and green belt land is the third most valuable category.

In the new assessment, almost all the London green belt and AONB land along HS2’s proposed route has been demoted, for valuation purposes, to the lowest category of “intensive farmland,” worth just £103 per hectare.

Meanwhile in the Guardian, Alison Munro says there is “widespread misunderstanding” about HS2.  Alison Munro has been head of HS2 Ltd since the quango was formed in 2009 by then Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Adonis.

The Guardian says:
Alison Munro, chief executive of High Speed Two, admits it has struggled so far in “getting the message out about the benefits,” and that there is widespread misunderstanding of what the £33bn investment in the HS2 route is for.

…Munro says: “I can certainly understand why people are concerned. I think if I was in their position I would be as well. People’s fear of what it will be like is worse than the reality.”

Roadshows during the public consultation featured sound demonstrations – verified, Munro insists, by independent experts – showing how train noise could be muffled. “Nevertheless, many people didn’t believe them.”

…Munro says of opponents: “I don’t think they will be won over. I think the best we can hope for with people like them is for them to appreciate we’ve done as much as we can.”

The comments on the article make it clear what many people think of Alison Munro’s views:

What a patronising little interview and article. Well over 1/4 of the 270 people currently working on HS2 are pr, public affairs and “stakeholder relations” officers (its a higher percentage of their direct employees once secondees etc are stripped out of the 270 number). And yet despite that obscene waste of public money on quango pr and lobbying (what happened to Cameron’s promise to end this sort of waste), this is the best that their Chief Executive can do. Time to kill this project before any more public money is wasted trying to defend the indefensible.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/1803317

These “independent experts ” then went onto to win multi-million pound contracts when the HS2 go-ahead was announced. So they were probably more interested in giving a false picture to ensure the line went ahead than trying to give a true representation.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/18037637

An open letter to Alison Munro: The reason why we object to HS2 is not because we have ‘lost sight of the project’s beneficiaries’ but because your organisation has systematically distorted the evidence about the benefits! We don’t believe you! You are ‘fiddling the figures’!

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