Parliament must account for ‘environmental costs’ of HS2

The "hidden costs" regarding the environmental and health impacts of the HS2 project have been underestimated, according to London Assembly Environment Committee.

The Committee points out that the health impacts of pollution and loss of green space need to be taken into account for the cost-benefit analysis of the project to be accurate. The HS2 project aims to connect the major cities of the Midlands and the North with London.

Environment Committee chair Murad Qureshi AM said: “We’ve heard plenty about the supposed benefits of HS2 – but what about the human and environmental costs? What of the destruction of homes, city parks, ancient woodland and wildlife habitat? What about the 10 years of noise, pollution and disruption imposed on local people?”

“Central London already has some of the worst air pollution in Europe – have the extra deaths and health effects of this added pollution not been considered at all?”

Qureshi said that these costs need to be re-evaluated for the sums to add up to a “realistic price tag” for the construction of HS2.

“The Government can’t keep ignoring Londoners’ concerns. People have clearly told MP’s that they are unhappy with the rough-shod way this bill is being pushed through,” said Qureshi.

“HS2 should get out the calculator and redo their sums. Parliament needs to consider the overall cost to the health and wellbeing of Londoners when examining the environmental impact of HS2,” added Qureshi.

The Government’s plans for HS2 have been heavily criticised, with environmental groups and many MPs raising concerns over the impact the project will have on the UK’s green spaces. The cost of the project, which is currently estimated at around £40bn, has also increased opposition to HS2.

Meanwhile, the recent flooding events of the last few months have sparked further questions over whether the project will increase flood risk and if the money could be better spent on flood defences.

Following recent flooding in the Willows area of Aylesbury, MP David Lidington wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin, asking on behalf of his constituents whether the construction and operation of HS2 will add to the flood risk on the Willows estate.

Replying to Lidington’s letter, McLoughlin said: “Whilst the Government is committed to investment in protection from flooding, it is also committed to infrastructure investment and economic growth.

“It is not an either, or choice,” added McLoughlin.

Proposals for the route in phase one of HS2 runs through a number of flood plains and will require seven rivers to be diverted.

The Guardian reported that water Minister, Dan Rogerson, has admitted that the scale of the flood risk associated with HS2 has not been fully assessed for the first phase of the route from London to Birmingham.

Leigh Stringer

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