National CPRE still ignoring its own HS2 policy, despite concerns of local branches.

The Staffordshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England has launched a blistering attack on HS2, with CPRE Staffordshire’s technical adviser Phil Goode saying ;“It imposes itself not only on long stretches of unspoilt tranquil landscapes, but also close to – or under – many villages, and involves demolition of rural properties, farms and recreational areas.” adding that it is a “Monster intrusion into our landscape and our lives”, and claiming in terms of the justification for the project that; “All that is left is the final admission by the Prime Minister that we must have one because everybody else does.”

This sentiment reflects the view of CPREs national president Sir Andrew Motion, who described HS2 as “bonkers” in December, but this has been lost on the staff at head office. CPRE nationally have been criticised by campaigners and local branches alike for seeming to ditch their own policy on HS2.

At a meeting in December, Sir Andrew Watson, the chair of CPRE Warwickshire said that he was “exceptionally disappointed” that Shaun Spiers, the national Chief Executive of CPRE, had arbitrarily changed the stance of the national organisation from insisting that ‘Five Tests’ were applied to HS2, to a position of support for HS2, without consultation with or a mandate from the membership. After what was seen by many as a complete farce of a public consultation in 2011, the legality of which is still in question, Spiers, a former Labour MEP who attended university with the originator of the HS2 plans Lord Adonis, said;

“We are particularly pleased that this appears to have been a genuine consultation.” adding that “We are pleased the Government has shown its commitment to Britain’s railways while being sensitive to the impact that HS2 will have on communities and the countryside.”

The five tests which CPRE set for HS2 are;

1. Protect the environment, by for example using existing transport corridors.

2. Tackle climate change and minimise energy needs.

3. Shift existing trips rather than generate new ones.

4. Improve local transport.

5. Integrate with planning and regional regeneration.

The reality is that none of these tests are met by HS2, for the following reasons;

1. The environment is not protected. 350 unique habitats, 50 ancient woods, 30 river corridors, a national nature reserve, 10 county wildlife trust reserves, 24 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and hundreds of other important areas could be directly damaged or indirectly affected by HS2. Existing transport corridors are hardly used at all by HS2 due to the proposed speed of the service making it difficult to curve.

2. The energy consumption is too high due to the proposed speed. 50% more energy will be required to run HS2’s proposed 400 km/h trains than the existing Eurostar London-Paris trains use.

3. The shifting of journeys from air (the only form of travel less carbon intensive than HS2) to rail as a result of a new line will be small as internal air flights within the UK are a tiny proportion of all travel. Instead, HS2 would generate wholly new travel, including Birmingham-London commuting; and lead to longer journeys.

4. HS2 as proposed would have few links with local transport and few effective interchanges with other rail services. In a recent radio interview, Rail Minister Simon Burns admitted that linking HS2 up to existing rail services is not in the HS2 budget, but what is in the budget is a requirement for £7bn worth of cuts to existing services.

5. The Government have confused ‘development’ with ‘regeneration’, as with the potential exception of Old Oak Common, the line would not serve areas needing regeneration.

Also out of kilter with reality is Ralph Smyth the Senior Transport Campaigner for CPRE, who said when Stage 2 was announced;

“In planning for 2032, when phase 2 of HS2 is proposed to open, it is right that we should now aim high for our rail network. So we can certainly welcome the Government’s level of ambition.”

In that press release Smyth claimed a positive of the Stage 2 plan was that “Only one SSSI would be directly affected”, despite the fact HS2 will in fact impact upon 24 SSSIs. Smyth has also claimed that the failure of HS2 Ltd to mitigate plans, and indeed in some cases make them worse is actually the fault of campaigners, saying;

“Anecdotal reports suggest that parishes that have engaged to date have secured addition mitigation whereas those that have focused solely on opposition have not. This highlights that we are at the stage where a failure to engage on mitigation is likely to cost the countryside.”

Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 Campaign Manager said,

“While local communities have had great support from some branches of CPRE, we have completely given up on national office, as they are completely failing in their remit. They claim that we do not understand that their position is not to oppose all development, but make sure that necessary developments are done properly, and that is the point the likes of Spiers and Smyth have totally missed, that this is a completely unnecessary development which is being done in a way which maximises environmental damage.”

“We are very disappointed by the CPRE national office, as are many local branches, as they set five tests for HS2 to pass and it just about manages to pass half of one of them. The ‘anecdotal evidence’ which Smyth quotes that groups opposed to HS2 have not got mitigation is clearly an anecdote that he has completely made up. Along the entirety of Stage 1 of the route, every action group is completely opposed to HS2, but every action group has acted pragmatically and engaged with HS2 Ltd to get mitigation if the project goes ahead. In Kenilworth we have just been told that because we pointed out the constraints which HS2 Ltd hadn’t noticed, and because we proposed mitigations, they have decided to make things worse and tear up the entire third of a mile of green belt between Kenilworth and Coventry. To say that HS2 Ltd haven’t mitigated, or in this case made things worse, because of our opposition to the project is a totally misinformed and absolutely disgusting.”

4 comments to “National CPRE still ignoring its own HS2 policy, despite concerns of local branches.”
  1. You give too much attention to non technical specialists with motives not fully understood.

    From the Transport Select Committees to public statements there has been inconsitencies in positions and statements of people with the ear of the media.

    HS2 as routed and as a one track each way railway is not the answer for the rail capacity needs of the future and for road rail shifts of freight and people.

    The land take impacts are unwarranted and interfacing with roads is costly for no net road travel gains.

    Better stay with simple beliefs remote from funding positions and patronage.

  2. Also worth noting in this discussion is the Right Lines Charter “Doing HIgh Speed Rail Well” and the signatory bodies signed up to support this ‘agency’.
    Many of these signatories also appear to be fighting HS2 as announced.
    Is this evidence that the founding principles of RLC are flawed or as presented has CPRE breached its own guiding principles on HS2 as planned and is it now supporting an example of HSR that does not meet the criteria of RLS as well. In which case its co-signators should have some comments.
    What is the current consensus of RLC to HS2 stage one and two? Most of the opinion appears to be out dated.
    Can Stop HS2 obtain a current unified opinion or has the Charter collapsed?

    • Apologies posting three in a row can these last two be combined?
      There is an insightful comment and indeed criticism of CPRE that seems to make sense to me. It was posted by Peter Delow

      So what is going on? What is the game plan of CPRE National Office?
      Some clues may be found in a CPRE internal policy document of January 2012 (here), written by Ralph “Ferrari” Smyth. In that document the rationale behind the way that the Government’s announcement was received in that infamous press release is explained:
      “The most conspicuous elements of the decision were the additional tunnelling and mitigation on the route in the Chilterns AONB as well as in undesignated countryside. We felt it was important to welcome these improvements in our press release that was issued on the day of the announcement. This was not just because we had been calling for them but also because we do need to be positive publicly when the Government listens and responds to concerns we have raised.”
      But the policy document also says:
      “Nonetheless it was important to point out that while reduced, the impacts on the countryside remain unacceptable and that further changes would be needed. There will be plenty of opportunity to continue to improve route design and mitigation during the preparation of the Environmental Impact Assessment and the Hybrid Bill. It will be necessary for the pressure to be kept up, particularly in relation to less high profile areas such as Warwickshire.”
      Whilst I have to admit that the press release covered both of these “angles”, I think that it was far too strong on the former and far too weak on the latter, giving the impression that CPRE is prepared to accept the current HS2 proposals as inevitable and is seeking to “make the best of a bad job”.
      Indeed, Ralph Smyth appears to view the CPRE being cast in the role of “collaborator” as being helpful to its role of countryside guardian:
      “Having a positive vision gives us advantages over other groups, particularly those that exist solely to say no.”
      He might think that, but I really don’t see how playing right into the hands of the Government’s public relations people did anything to help CPRE do its job better.
      Mr Smyth also says, further justifying CPRE’s conciliatory approach to HS2:
      “Anecdotal reports suggest that parishes that have engaged to date have secured addition mitigation whereas those that have focused solely on opposition have not. This highlights that we are at the stage where a failure to engage on mitigation is likely to cost the countryside …”
      I think that is far too simplistic a view. An analysis of what HS2 Ltd has to say about the mitigation proposals that it has put forward since the public consultation in its document Review of possible refinements to the proposed HS2 London to West Midlands Route (here) reveals that cost appears to be the uppermost incentive in deciding which proposals are adopted.
      Most of the mitigation proposals that the document recommends be adopted have, according to HS2 Ltd, associated cost reductions

  3. On the surface this seems bizarre and a paradox. The loss to the AONB woodlands and SSI are clearly documented and agreed.It is the value and meaning that is debated. CPRE Head and Body seem at discord rather than discourse with one-another.
    On the surface there appears to be no moderating democratic process between these ‘parts’

    For CPRE not to register any complaint and nor to have seeming awareness of where these strategic areas and sites are appears grossly incompetent at best and must raise concerns with their peer bodies supporting and caring for such sites.

    The article hints at other factors about which I will not comment but note.

    This matter is obviously of concern to this charity and its members. I had noted the lack of this important voice in the argument.
    Does the charity receive other sources of funding or support?

    It should be an issue of urgent concern.
    On the basis of their founding charter/ manifesto and their prior functioning they have acquired influence and credulity which they stand to lose.
    They may well lose members and funding if the Governance of the organization appears to be at askance with it’s very foundation and accepted practice. (Indeed if true members should demand their submissions returned)

    If they are promulgating an opinion that is contrary to their own principles and objectives it may represent overt and considered hypocrisy and renders the Charity’s past interactions and actions questionable, arbitary and partial.
    The local groups should demand/force an urgent meeting with the Board of Governors to discuss their concerns and register a vote of no confidence in the conduct of Messrs Smith and Burns if that is their considered majority opinion. Sometimes politics and differences of these sorts cause such institutions to be discredited, fragment or for a new fraternal organization (from the same root) to arise in order to rectify the dissonance between the two divergent voices of the institution.
    It is a registered self promoting charity with an historic reputation
    Its processes are human and fallible.
    Its current actions and activities define it.
    It is a campaign group, not a democratic body.
    It can make mistakes.
    Its opinion can be discredited if it is false or misrepresentative of its founding charter.

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