Fares, rail policy and DfT news

06.03.19

Government overturns council’s challenge against ecological work around HS2 Colne Valley Viaduct

The government has overruled a council’s decision to reject HS2’s application to build one of its ecological mitigation sites around the Colne Valley Viaduct.

Chris Grayling and James Brokenshire, in a letter to Hillingdon Council and HS2, revealed that they had given the ecological work the go-ahead after overturning the authority’s decision to refuse permission.

HS2 previously applied to the council for permission to carry out environmental mitigation works in preparation for the construction of a 3.4km long viaduct in the Colne Valley.

HS2 works around the valley have proved highly controversial amongst local politicians, residents, and campaign groups, and demonstrations have been held on the high-speed rail site regularly since 2017.

Hillingdon Council rejected the application, stating that HS2 had not provided enough information about the archaeological work to be carried out.

An independent panel planning inspector backed the council’s claim, finding that HS2 had provided sufficient information on the ecology work but not the archaeological aspects.

But now the transport and communities secretaries have overruled the council’s rejection, stating that they found “no legitimate basis for refusing to approve” the application.

The letter read: “They hereby allow HS2’s appeal and approve the Schedule 17 application for the creation of the Colne Valley Viaduct South Embankment wetland habitat ecological mitigation, comprising earthworks and fencing.”

Hillingdon Council can still request a judicial review of the government’s decision.

The wetland habitat site is due to be built around the viaduct and will include a mitigation pond, a reptile basking bank, two retreats for hibernating animals, and fencing.

The high-speed rail work around the Colne Valley Viaduct has faced protests and calls to be scrapped, with some campaigners demonstrating on the site and reportedly attaching themselves to trees and machinery to disrupt work.

The Guardian reported in February last year that 31 different incidents had occurred involving protestors since October 2017, and the DfT was granted an injunction to stop campaigners protesting on the construction site.

But in November, four environmental protestors managed to stop work on part of the HS2 rail link at the site, chaining themselves to chimney pieces despite the injunction in place.

The campaigners claim that HS2 will go through 100 acres of ancient woodlands and effect 2,400 different species of flora and fauna.

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