The ‘Right Lines’ Charter was released on 7th April by a group of charitable bodies: Campaign for Better Transport, Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Chiltern Society, Civic Voice, Environmental Law Foundation, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and the Woodland Trust.
Greengauge 21 is pleased that the national environmental NGOs are engaging in the consultation process on high-speed rail. We agree with the need for principles in the planning of HSR – we used a set of Guiding Principles in the development of the Fast Forward strategy, although not the same ones. We also accept the Principles in the Charter – although there are others too that need to be taken into account in practice. Overall, this is a contribution that should help move the debate forward.
In Greengauge 21’s view, the Charter with its four Principles is a helpful contribution to the consultation on HS2. The commentary surrounding the four principles, however, in large measure is not supported by evidence – and in places is contradictory.
We see no grounds for concluding (as the Charter’s authors have) that the current HS2 proposals are ‘unsound at present and fall well short of these principles’. Substantively, there seems to be a compliance with what HS2 Ltd and Government has done to date in its planning of HS2.
Ministers will nevertheless be wise to engage with these national groups to explore the extent to which the four principles have been applied to date and any changes to the HS2 planning process that might usefully be made.