SELECT COMMITTEE TOUR SITE
MPs thought that the ‘unity of opposition’ was demonstrated to the HS2 Select Committee during their visit on Monday. Chesham and Amersham MP, Cheryl Gillan, gives her account of the day
NO amount of looking at maps and plans can match the reality of seeing at first hand where HS2 will run and what impact it will have on the Chilterns.
No photograph can equal the sight of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the full glory of summer.
Reading a document cannot convey the thoughts of people who see their homes and lives affected by the HS2 project. People from every community affected had done their utmost to show just what a devastating impact it will have.
The landscape itself became a silent witness, showing the way that the current bored tunnel would emerge on the crown of a hill in an ancient woodland; the woodland, hedgerows and the ancient Saxon lanes that would be destroyed; and how the fragile chalk streams and rivers, the subject of so much conservation work, would be threatened.
The visitors saw a brown trout jumping; a black swan on the pond at Little Missenden; and a red kite appeared like magic, soaring over the village of Hyde Heath. This, the only AONB on the HS2 route, deserves better protection.
Councils, communities and environmental groups, with my support as their MP, demonstrated the unity of opposition. Their view is that the current plans do not go nearly far enough to protect the AONB. They disagree with the view of HS2 Ltd that the current mitigation is sufficient. Only 45 % of the HS2 route is currently in a deep bore tunnel. The remaining 55 % is above ground in shallow cuttings, across viaducts, or in the ‘cut and cover’ tunnels, the construction of which causes significant environmental damage.
The select committee members heard about the full tunnelling options and all the work of local groups in providing evidence about these. The visiting MPs were also reminded about the incoming government’s pledges to preserve AONBs and fragile environments.