Report of the cumulative impacts of HS2 works

Part of High-Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 8th March 2016.

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Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport) 11:15 am, 8th March 2016

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This new clause seeks to address the concerns of communities affected by the HS2 construction works. There have been considerable concerns about the habitability of some of the properties close to the proposed HS2 works in which people are living. We have visited the sites and seen maps that show—certainly in Camden—properties that will not be demolished and will be extraordinarily close to the line of development.

One of the main areas of concern is the individual impact, which HS2 Ltd identified in its environmental statement. However, the cumulative effect of the various impacts on homes and habitability was not accounted for. HS2 Ltd’s methodology was to assess each impact individually. It proposed mitigation only if the impact is considered to be a significant hazard. HS2 Ltd assessed noise and visual impacts in the environmental statement, yet it looked at the combined impact only where more than one limit is breached.

Although HS2 Ltd’s approach is in line with current law, given the significant impact and duration of the scheme and the combined effect of the works, the Opposition believe that HS2 Ltd should go beyond the current statutory minimum to look at how the cumulative impact of the works affects the habitability of properties. There is currently no assessment of the cumulative effect where individual impacts are below the set limits, and there is also no assessment of the knock-on impacts that mitigation measures have.

Camden Borough Council provided an example. A home is close to the construction works. Its residents rely on opening its windows to ventilate it and enjoy the natural light. HS2 Ltd completes a noise assessment that concludes that the home is just below the limit required for noise insulation. Although the residents of the flat will hear the works, they do not qualify for extra window glazing as the noise levels they experience do not meet HS2 Ltd’s criteria. Once work starts, the residents keep their windows shut and their curtains closed to mask the noise, dust and unsightliness of the construction works. However, the lack of air and light to the property increases damp and mould and leads to overheating. The result is that the habitability of the property is affected and the residents’ living standards are reduced.

The concern is that there has not been an appropriate assessment of the cumulative impact of the works. Even if no individual limit has been breached, it is clear that the cumulative impact of the works might be significant, yet at present there is no sufficient mechanism through which the cumulative impact is assessed, which is an issue of concern to those who will be affected by the works authorised by the Bill.