Thursday 2 October 2014
The High Speed 2 Hybrid Bill is on its lengthy journey through Parliament and will not be passed before the next election. It is now at the Select Committee stage which is likely to take until next autumn to be completed.
The HS2 Select Committee is hearing representations from organisations and individuals affected by the rail line, starting in Birmingham and working south. When the Committee reaches the Chilterns, not likely before early summer 2015, the Conservation Board and others will be presenting a strong case for the line to be placed in a fully-bored tunnel under the whole of the Chilterns AONB.
A lot of work is taking place to prepare for the Select Committee. The Board will also be pressing for the members of the Committee to visit the proposed route through the AONB to get a clear idea of the impact it will have on landscapes and communities.
In the meantime, the Board is working closely with local authorities to push the Government to set up a fund to be used for the benefit of the communities and environment affected by HS2. The 51M group of local authorities affected by HS2 has written to the Prime Minister, asking that a Community and Environment Benefit Fund be established for those affected by HS2, along the lines of the fund that David Cameron has personally supported for communities affected by fracking. This would recognise that most of the costs borne by the areas hosting the national infrastructure of HS2 will not be covered by compensation or mitigation schemes.
A Government-created Fund would give out grants to enhance the quality of life and economy of communities along the HS2 line and to improve wildlife sites and historic features.