HS2 Environmental Impact Assessment Factsheet
What is an EIA?
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an evaluation of the possible positive or negative impacts that a proposed project may have on the environment. It is a legal requirement for certain types of development due to their size or nature. The construction of long-distance railway lines, such as HS2, automatically requires an EIA.
The role of an EIA is to ensure that decision makers are able to make a balanced judgement on the development. This should take account of environmental impacts as well as the social and economic impacts which are listed as part of the project.
Legislation sets out the criteria used for deciding which developments require an EIA. However the legislation does not stipulate what should be included within an EIA or how it should be undertaken.
A full EIA is likely to include sections on noise, air, water, archaeology and nature conservation. The EIA is funded by the developer (in this case HS2 Ltd) but normally carried out on their behalf by a series of specialist consultants (such as Atkins in this case). Whilst no survey formats are specified it is expected that industry standards will be used.1
Prior to work starting on the EIA, HS2 Ltd sought the views of statutory bodies including Natural England and the Environment Agency. These bodies would have suggested species and habitats of concern and the geographical scope of the analysis (distance from the centre point of the new rail line).
WTPL / WT Staff
What is an Environmental Statement?
The Environmental Statement (ES) is the summary of the EIA’s findings. Indeed the terms EIA and ES are used interchangeably but perhaps can be better understood if the EIA is seen as the process and the ES as the conclusions.
Government guidance2 suggests the following should be included within the ES:
Description of the development, including in particular:
A description of the physical characteristics of the whole development and the temporary and permanent land use requirements during the construction and operational phases;
A description of the main characteristics of the construction methods, for instance, nature and quantity of the materials used;
An estimate, by type and quantity, of expected residues and emissions (water, air and soil pollution, noise, vibration, light, heat, radiation, etc.) resulting from the operation of the proposed development;
The Woodland Trust, Kempton Way, Grantham, Lincolnshire NG31 6LL.
The Woodland Trust is a charity registered in England and Wales no. 294344 and in Scotland no. SC038885.
A non-profit making company limited by guarantee. Registered in England no. 1982873. The Woodland Trust logo is a registered trademark.
An outline of the main alternatives considered by HS2 Ltd and an indication of the main reasons for their choice, taking into account the environmental effects;
A description of the aspects of the environment likely to be significantly affected by the development, including, in particular, population, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, including the architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the interrelationship between the above factors;
A description of the likely significant effects of the development on the environment, which should cover the direct effects and any indirect, secondary, cumulative, short, medium and long-term, permanent and temporary, positive and negative effects of the development, resulting from
the existence of the development;
the use of natural resources;
the emission of pollutants, the creation of nuisances and the elimination of waste, and the description by the applicant of the forecasting methods used to assess the effects on the environment;
A description of the measures proposed to prevent, reduce and where possible offset any significant adverse effects on the environment.
What happens next?
Unlike ordinary planning applications, the decision making process for HS2 will be as part of a Parliamentary Bill and thus the standard process for commenting on the EIA is different.
The final Environmental Statement will be deposited in Parliament as part of the Hybrid Bill. However, a draft document will be published as a public consultation document for an 8 week period. This is the public’s opportunity to assess the analysis that has been undertaken and the conclusions that have been drawn.
Rather than one EIA/ES for the whole route, or a series of subject chapters, HS2 have broken the information down into geographical chapters which will, hopefully, make it easier for local communities to assess the specific impacts within their area.
Whilst it is unlikely that any comments would result in a major change in the route, there may be further surveys undertaken or a different analysis of suitable compensation measures.
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) looks at the effects of a project on the environment.
The findings of the EIA are summarised in something called an Environmental Statement.
High Speed 2 Ltd has now published a draft Environmental Statement for phase 1 of the route. We have until July 11th to comment.
What can you do now?
As explained, the draft document is being published as a public consultation document. To ensure your concerns are raised with HS2 Ltd, you can use this period of time to formally respond to the contents of the draft ES. You can do this as an individual or as part of your community group.
For ancient woodland we recommend that you assess the following:
Have the ancient woods been identified as such? (Use our ‘Is my Wood Ancient?’ factsheet if you are not sure)
Does the habitat survey for the woodland accurately represent your knowledge of the woods?
Have the species been adequately surveyed using the right techniques?
Are there species which are important in a local context which have not been considered?
Have any structures such as culverts or access gates been placed inappropriately in relation to the ancient woodland, can you suggest better placement?
Do the conclusions drawn about the severity of the threat and the residual level of threat after mitigation look realistic?
Have the mitigation and compensation suggestions adequately answered your concerns?
WTPL / Kenneth Watkins
It is important to draw good quality research together in preparation for your response. Use the check list in this document that is drawn from the Government guidance. This will help you structure your research and understand what should be present for you to respond to.
For what mitigation and compensation should look like for ancient woodland, read our factsheet.
The Woodland Trust will also be assessing the draft documents and will prepare a supporting fact sheet to this one, approximately mid way through the process. Register to receive the next update.
If you are representing a local group and would like to take part in a workshop with the Woodland Trust to finalise detail in your response, you can register for an invitation at the same link.
Guidance for where to return your response to should appear on the HS2 Ltd web site. We shall also include guidance in our second fact sheet for your clarity.
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