HS2 Bill – Third Reading

I would like to take this opportunity to thank and celebrate all the campaigners who have been trying to stop HS2. Many of them have put their personal safety, their personal finances and a lot of other things on hold because they were so dedicated to trying to stop HS2. They had physical, personal and financial problems because of all the things they were doing. There are people like Sarah Green in Colne Valley, who has just been a beacon of hope actually trying to mitigate the worst of HS2’s damage to that beautiful area. Then, of course, there are other organisations and individuals, from the Woodland Trust, the Wildlife Trust and parish councils to communities all along the route and concerned residents, who all gave their time and efforts to do what they know is right for their area.

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HS2 Bill Amendment 10

Amendment 10 is a pretty good amendment and something to work towards, even if it is not accepted today. It would require a report every six months rather than annually; “indirect impacts” are explicitly mentioned; and it would require a report to Parliament by the Secretary of State, with a four-week consultation period, rather than no consultation at all.

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HS2 temporary reprieve for ancient woodlands

At least 108 ancient woods are threatened with loss or damage from the two phases of HS2, with phase one already underway. A review of the HS2 project has been set up by the government and I have raised the issue of a complete suspension of all environmentally damaging work with the review team. Extinction rebellion have joined with local campaigners and with Chris Packham to organise protests against the work going ahead.

Work on the woodlands has now been suspended, which is great. These woodlands are crucial spots for biodiversity; the trees are hundreds of years old and have therefore become prized spots for rare invertebrates, bats and birds. However, there are many other habitats that need preserving while the review takes place.

Colne Valley is a good example of a site that needs treating with caution. It is not only beautiful, its aquifer is one of the main water supplies for London. Local campaigners have today sent HS2 a warning notice of intended legal action if the company goes ahead with plans to drive, a hole 30m deep, straight through the sub-soil of a highly polluted area and into the permeable rock of the aquifer below. This would potentially be a criminal act, as it would impact on the water supply of several million people.

A local pumping station had to be closed down a few years ago because of pollution from a local landfill site. Local greens have evidence that the closure of that pumping station has changed the flow of the underground water and it now goes directly under where HS2 are doing their work. I have asked a series of questions about this in the Lords and intend to send a lot more. HS2 need to start taking their environmental responsibilities seriously.