Parliament has begun to discuss its single largest bill ever, on the much-criticised High Speed 2 project and its consequences on landscapes and communities.
The hybrid bill was released on Monday evening and contains a detailed assessment of the first phase of the proposed railway, which will link London to Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and the East Midlands.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said, “The bill will give us the powers we need to get the railway built and start delivering the extra room on our railways that this country so desperately needs. It will also start the process of rebalancing the economy and bringing our great cities closer together.”
The bill also contains a lengthy environmental statement relating to the impact that the project will have on rural areas and local communities. It revealed that around 23% of the line will be in tunnels and that the noise of its trains will be eased by landscaped earthworks and the planting of 2m trees.
However, the project will also damage 67 ancient woods, according to the Woodland Trust.
Opponents of the HS2 have complained over the size of the bill – which they say makes it impossible for them to analyse it in details within the 56 consultation days given by the government.
The Woodland Trust has hired a new staff member who will be responsible for the scrutiny of the 50,000-page document, which became the first bill to be delivered to parliament by memory stick, and not in physical form.
Hilary Allison, policy director of the Woodland Trust, said, “The enormity of the task being asked of all who have something to contribute to this consultation is undeniable. Given its immense length, we feel the timescale given to read and respond is unfair.”