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Tuesday, 8th April 2014

UK: HS2 and the Environment

Source: House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (UK)

From Summary:

In this report we have examined the rationale for the HS2 aim of delivering ‘no net biodiversity loss’ and the mechanisms for environmental protection in the project. Our aim has been to inform the House on these matters ahead of the imminent second reading of the HS2 Hybrid Bill and the forming of a select committee soon after to examine petitions from those affected by the project.

The Government should aim higher than that objective of no net biodiversity loss. It has significant work to do to demonstrate that it has put the ‘mitigation hierarchy’ at the heart of its approach, given the environmental damage expected to ancient woodlands, SSSIs and local wildlife sites. Where such biodiversity loss is genuinely unavoidable and cannot be mitigated, compensation measures should be applied to the fullest extent possible. HS2 Ltd must carry out environmental surveys as much as possible of the 40% of the route yet to be examined and catalogue all ancient woodland and protected animal species.

The HS2 biodiversity offsetting metric in some respects provides additional protections compared to those in Defra pilot projects, but given the uncertainties surrounding the effectiveness of HS2 offsetting and the scale of the land to be taken by the project, the HS2 metric should be adjusted wherever possible to encompass the precautionary principle and be independently monitored. Where damage to ancient woodlands is inevitable the metric should bring forward the maximum possible compensatory habitats, but ancient woodlands should be treated separately from the overall ‘no net loss’ calculation. The Government should reconsider its requirement for biodiversity compensation to be provided directly alongside the HS2 route, to take opportunities for better offsetting measures further afield.

+ Direct link to Report (PDF; 626 KB)


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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

Adrian can be reached at adrian.janes@freepint.com

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