On and on it seems to go (and you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone)

Thirteen weeks after the 50,000 pages of the HS2 Environmental Statement landed on my desk I can breathe a sigh of relief as I have now submitted the Woodland Trust’s response to the consultation.

The ES was published with sections missing so the original deadlines were extended twice, first by the House of Commons and then by the House of Lords, giving me an additional 5 weeks to plough through the information. One day after submitting, now is a good opportunity to jot down some thoughts on how the process has gone and what may happen next.

Scenes from Rookery Wood, one of over 40 ancient woods at risk from Phase 1 of HS2. Two hectares here are under threat.

Scenes from Rookery Wood, one of over 40 ancient woods at risk from Phase 1 of HS2. Two hectares here are under threat.

Unlike most consultees I have been in the lucky (?) position of being able to devote my full time to reviewing the content of the ES.  Even with the two extensions to the timeframe and no break over Christmas I have been unable to read all 50,000 pages. For a member of the public affected by HS2 who has a job and a family to run, reviewing all the relevant information in the ES would have been impossible. The layout of the document was confusing to say the least, with much information buried within multiple reports and annexes of addendums (for example, the Ecology Section of Volume 5 contains 52 separate reports).  The 100’s of maps attached to the ES are poorly labelled and the Volume 2 Community Forum Area reports contain no map references, so page after page of maps had to be searched to find the areas referred to. All of this added to the difficulty of navigating the document, before a review could be undertaken. Nonetheless, I battled through and our submission is in!

So what happens now? 

In accordance with the instructions on gov.uk all responses to the consultation needed to be submitted by 11.45pm (or 11.59pm if you go by the HS2 Ltd. website) on Thursday 27th February 2014.  The responses are now being reviewed by an independent assessor appointed by Parliament and will be summarised into a report. The Trust does not know how many responses have been received or how long the assessor will be given to review the responses, the assessors report will be sent to Parliament at least two weeks before the second reading of the Hybrid Bill (according to gov.uk this will be 28th April 2014 at the very earliest).  If the Bill passes the second reading, the principle of HS2 can no longer be opposed and the petitioning period will start (again the length of this is not known, but it is typically 3 weeks).

A petition against the Hybrid Bill is not the same as a public petition. It is a document, in a particular format, outlining how you are affected by the Bill and why you think it shouldn’t be proceeded with or how you would like it altered. Anyone who can establish that they are directly and specially affected by HS2 can petition, and the Woodland Trust will be taking part in this. Petitions will be considered by a Select Committee and the Committee will have the power to amend the Hybrid Bill in a number of ways, although they will not be able to cancel the project outright. There are no dates for any of these stages because they are all dependant on when the second reading of the Hybrid Bill occurs, but we do not expect the Select Committee to sit until September 2014, at the very earliest.

The bottom line is that the Trust believes that 27 ancient woodlands will be directly affected by Phase 1 of HS2 and a further 22 will be indirectly affected. We have also identified a further 23 woods that we believe are ancient even though they are not on the Ancient Woodland Inventory. We have submitted evidence on these woods to Natural England and we are awaiting their response.

Ancient woodland is not adequately protected in law and projects like HS2, which the Government should be using to prove their green credentials, unfortunately clearly demonstrate how easy it is to destroy irreplaceable habitat that is part of our national heritage. Even if you are not directly affected by HS2, you can still give a voice to precious ancient woodland by taking action and joining us in telling David Cameron “enough is enough!” – ancient woodland must be given the protection it deserves.

Luci Ryan, Ecological Impact Assessor

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About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
This entry was posted in Campaigning, Climate Change and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to On and on it seems to go (and you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone)

  1. Pingback: Outstanding advice now published | Woodland Matters

  2. We need every person who does not think HS2 to e mail or write (even just a couple of lines)to their M.P. Thors who are not having the line through their neighbourhood especially.
    Thankyou Luci it needs those in the know to drum it in to the government that future generations will not thank them for destroying the countryside(the lungs of the people).

  3. Pingback: HS2 Environmental Statement Responses

  4. Pingback: Heartening interest by EAC on ancient woodland loss from HS2 | Woodland Matters

  5. Peter Wilding says:

    It’s good that the Trust has been able to put enough effort into this to prepare a thorough reply; though obviously these resources diverted to fight the HS2 proposals could have been better used for other conservation work, if circumstances had allowed.

    There is an alarming tendency for the proponents of new construction schemes to try and outwit – or wear out – their local opponents by publishing enormously bloated consultation documents and related studies, often with just a short time for comments. (The same thing is happening with proposals for new Local Plans that would permit Green Belt land to be taken for housing development). As others have pointed out, this prevents most ordinary people from having a valid say in the process, as nobody in employment and with normal family etc duties has enough time to read and evaluate the documents.

    How about a campaign for a new law that would render any consultation invalid unless it was based on a document that included a short (10 pages or less) and accurate summary of the environmental effects of the proposal?

  6. Ash says:

    Luci, you’re a star! Many would be overcome by the volume of paper you have had to plough through.

  7. Eve Mangold says:

    Everything this unelected government has done has been harmful to the environment and to our flora and fauna. HS2 is no different . . . effectively “jobs for the boys” with absolutely no regard for the people of this country.

  8. ossjay says:

    Thank you for describing the consultation process and why it is hard to participate (see Kafka and Alice comment). The sheer volume of often jargonised twaddle hiding important info is arguably better than even more jargonised summaries, especially when the latter are manipulated politically.
    On HS2, I am cynical. I love big technology like Concorde, railways, viaducts and they do make a mess at first. Excellent big technology would find a way to retain irreplaceable ancient woodland, and would cross George Osborne’s constituency instead of going round it. But then, this lacks excellence – I don’t think it is Big Brother so much as the bosses in Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.

  9. David Evans says:

    I am not sure who is supposed to benefit from HS2, but if it is the businessman or woman avoiding ‘wasted’ time sitting on the train, technology has already taken a hand by allowing such time to be used productively through laptop computers and mobile phones.

  10. Derek West says:

    Thanks Luci for all the hard work,HS2 is going to be a great white elephant,but never mind,there is lots of money to be made by Tory donors.

  11. matt derrington says:

    Alice in Wonderland meets Kafka at World’s End for a final cup of tea and a peruse of the view. “Shocking, isn’t it Alice?” “Why yes, Mr. Kafka, truly frightful!”

  12. daphnepleace says:

    It’s nowhere near enough, but I want to say thank you to Luci and to all the shamans like her who doggedly keep on stalking their way through the traps and pitfalls the ‘enemy’ sets up. Yes, it’s their job, and they get paid for doing what they do, but in my experience there’s a level of commitment in people like this that goes well beyond the boundaries of the ‘job description’. Those of us who appreciate the natural world praise you for it. Please keep up the very good work.

  13. JIM KIERAN says:

    I spent the day out in local woodland yesterday with Leeds Wildlife Volunteers led by a Leeds CC ranger. As always it was a fulfilling and reflective day. Lots got done, including the planting of 800 willow and alder to help screen in future years a new industrial zone. All woodland is so precious. Thank you so much for everything you’re doing on our behalf to see it preserved. I think that wading through 50,000 pages would have sent me to an early grave! You all deserve medals!

  14. I agree that this HS2 project is badly planned and a waste of public money and will desecrate our ancient heritage.

  15. Peter Kyte says:

    HS2 is an ill thought out project with a few vested interests calling the tunes. Considering out much money the taxpayer will have to pay out on this project, the government has kept public discussion and involvement to the bear minimum, never mind the folk who will be directly effected. It is “Big Brother Government” at its worst.

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