Green Party peer, Jenny Jones, met campaigners on the outskirts of London last week to see for herself how the building of HS2 is threatening a large proportion of London’s water supply and impacting on local environments.
If you make protests impossible to perform legally, criminalise non-violent direct action, abolish or restrict the ability of citizens to challenge the Government in court through judicial reviews, turn people against lawyers, gerrymander the election boundaries and dish out cash in the way that looks best for Conservative MPs, that is deep, dark politics. Many of us here are not particularly political and perhaps do not see the dangers inherent in what the Government are doing. It all seems like a calculated ploy to turn all the cards in favour of an unaccountable Government that cannot be challenged in the courts, at the ballot box or on the streets.
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.
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.
The first day of the Report stage of the High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill saw four votes on amendments, three of which Jenny voted for in an attempt to improve the project if it cannot be stopped:
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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.