High Speed 2 (HS2)
In 2019 The Chilterns Conservation Board welcomed the Independent Review of High Speed 2 (HS2), the proposed new high speed rail line between London and Birmingham. As soon as the project was announced, the Chilterns Conservation Board, along with many other local groups and individuals, argued that the route should not pass right through the middle of the protected landscape of the Chilterns AONB.
Now that plans are developed, we know the heavy environmental cost of HS2 on the Chilterns, including:
- Dramatic changes in landform and the construction of vast concrete structures including two squat viaducts, tunnel portals, together with a new wirescape of overhead line electrification equipment, noise barriers and high fencing – all at odds with the natural beauty of a protected landscape
- Constant assault on tranquillity, from both the noise and visual disturbance of trains passing at high speed every few minutes through the Misbourne valley
- Physical interruption of many rights of way – including the internationally significant Ridgeway National Trail and the Chilterns Cycle Way – both used annually by thousands of people for relaxation and recreation, with recognised benefits to health and wellbeing
- The permanent loss of irreplaceable ancient woodland
- Loss of key elements of the Chilterns’ cultural heritage - including ancient sunken greenways and one of the remaining sections of the Grim’s Ditch scheduled monument
- Loss of historic hedgerows and field patterns and fragmentation of habitats and wildlife corridors – directly contrary to the Lawton principles of ‘bigger, better and more joined up’ habitats
- Concerns that HS2 tunnels beneath the River Misbourne will impact on water draining through the fragile chalk and affect the flow of the Misbourne, and other rivers, in addition to water quality. The Chilterns chalk aquifer not only supplies fresh drinking water to many people in the south east of England, but it is also the source of nine of the UK’s internationally important chalk streams
- Direct loss of protected wildlife species. For example, HS2 Ltd has acknowledged that all barn owls living and hunting within a 6km wide corridor of the HS2 route will be killed
Since the HS2 route was first announced in 2010, the nation’s – and the Government’s – understanding and appreciation of the value of our natural world has significantly increased. We believe that the context of HS2 has changed considerably since Parliament approved the project and take the view that, to continue with HS2, would not only be damaging to the environment and people’s wellbeing but also be directly contradictory to key Government policies and ambitions.
We were very disappointed that the Oakervee Review recommended that HS2 should go ahead and the subsequent decision to that effect in February 2020 by the Government.
Read the Chilterns Conservation Board's full statement here.