We received the following message from Paul Jennings of the River Chess Association this week……..
A friend Sarah Green has been fighting to access data relating to the impact on the aquifer of piling operations for the HS2 viaduct. After a protracted period the Judge has found in her favour. So she will get access to the reports.
It says that the impact of tunnelling and drilling on the chalk aquifer is of public interest and the public should be given access to the data and should be consulted. Something HS2 and the EA have been desperately trying to avoid.
In my view pushing this under the carpet and hiding the issue has been a tactic pursued by HS2 for years with the assistance of the Environment Agency. We have been facing similar difficulties with our requests, the EA are being far from helpful and certainly not transparent.
Here are two interesting paragraphs from the Determination.
46. HS2’s second main point, that the Environment Agency will be approving and supervising everything, does not seem to us of great weight. Of course the Environment Agency is there to act in the public interest in relation to the environment but its involvement cannot be any kind of answer to the need for public knowledge of and involvement in environmental decisions. The EA is itself fallible and should be open to scrutiny. If the public could simply entrust everything to it there would be no need for the EIR.
53. Further, our confidence in the reliability of the case being advanced by HS2 in this connection was substantially undermined by their redaction of a reference at footnote 4 on page 16 of the first (“Options”) report. We could not see any basis for withholding this reference; at best the redaction may have been the result of a rather rushed approach to the redaction exercise and the fact that it appears to relate to some abstraction boreholes; at worst it arose from a desire not to publicise the existence of the subject matter of the reference for some reason.
The role of the Environment Agency in this is scandalous.
All the best
Congratulations Sarah! Let’s hope this is the beginning of improved access to information relating to these types of projects, so that they can be scrutinised and challenged. Further information on the ruling and background from StopHS2 here