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The Conservation Board fought long and hard to try and persuade the Government not to route the High Speed 2 Railway through the widest part of the Chilterns AONB. Whilst not winning the overall argument, further tunnelling was secured during the passage of the Bill through Parliament, together with agreement to consider design in keeping with the protected landscape.
As soon as the route was first announced in 2010, Conservation Board Members and staff have invested significant time and resources to understand, challenge and propose improvements to the rail proposals. We highlighted failings within the Environmental Impact Assessment, Environmental Statement and Hybrid Bill itself and presented our case before the House of Commons and House of Lords Select Committees.
The Board sought to reduce impacts, that HS2 themselves recognised as significant, of landscape degradation, visual intrusion, tranquility interruption (both noise and light) and diminished enjoyment and reputation of the area for both residents and visitors alike.
Working in partnership with individual landowners, local and national groups, local authorities, wildlife trusts, the National Trust and Woodland Trust, a 2.6km extension to the bored tunnel was secured. This saved 3 separate ancient Woodlands from destruction (Mantle’s Wood, Farthings Wood and Sibleys Coppice), a number of popular public rights of way and reduced disruption to the community of Hyde Heath.
In addition, the Secretary of State agreed to the formation of a Chiltern Review Group, specifically to develop design principles to achieve an exemplar landscape design for the project and identify additional measures to further integrate the scheme within the AONB. An additional £3M has been allocated towards these improvement measures.
As members of the Review Group, the Conservation Board will continue to press for the best possible design of the route through the Chilterns.
Persistence, dialogue, working with and supporting local people and professionals alike.
Key search words: HS2, Chilterns, Hybrid Bill, Select Committees
Photo Credits: Chilterns Conservation Board – Explaining impacts to the Independent HS2 Design Panel Visit March 2017, Kath Daly presenting evidence to the HoC SC July 2015