Ensuring that HS2 strikes the right balance between the needs of affected communities and the environment, and the long-term needs of the country as a whole, is essential.
As you may be aware, Ministers have launched an independent review of HS2, which is also considering HS2’s environmental benefits, in particular for carbon reduction in line with net zero commitments. While the review is ongoing, removals of ancient woodland for HS2 have been stopped – unless they are deemed to be absolutely necessary to avoid major cost and schedule impacts in the event the project proceeds.
As matters stand, HS2 Ltd’s Sustainability Policy commits to the protection of the environment through seeking to avoid significant adverse effects on communities, businesses and the environment, including the prevention of pollution.
The policy also commits to minimising impacts where they occur, and delivering enhancements as far as reasonably practicable to attain no net loss to the natural environment. I am pleased that on current plans a green corridor is also being created alongside the railway, including the planting of seven million new trees and shrubs along the Phase One route from London to the West Midlands.
The Government has also previously committed to providing support for local communities if HS2 is constructed, first along the Phase One route. An overall £70 million funding package has been made available which would help enhance community facilities, improve access to the countryside, and help improve road and cycle safety in towns and villages along the HS2 Phase One route. It would support local economies where businesses may experience disruption from the construction of the line.