Environmental campaigners have warned the new HS2 route through Yorkshire will have a “devastating and lasting impact” on the area.
The South Yorkshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England said HS2 have ignored their suggested mitigation measures and claim the currently planned route will “destroy the integrity of the best South Yorkshire landscapes”.
It follows the publication of a series of HS2 reports on the environmental impacts of the plans to build and run a high-speed railway line through South and West Yorkshire up to a new £500m station in Leeds.
The CPRE has warned that high viaducts and long embankments will change how South Yorkshire looks, with wildlife sites, ancient woodland and high-quality agricultural land lying in the path of the intended route. Dozens of footpaths will also have to be diverted to make way for the new line.
Anne Robinson, CPRE South Yorkshire’s transport campaigner, said there is particular concern about plans for a ‘highly visible’ 2km-long, 24m-high embankment at Barnburgh that drops down into a 3.7m cutting. “The route bisects high ground with a deep cutting adjacent to a popular local viewpoint at Watchley Crags,” she said. “HS2 Ltd have taken no notice of our suggestion for a short cut-and-cover tunnel.”
She also raised concerns about years of noise pollution and lorry movements on local roads after construction starts in 2024. “In principle we support rail developments, but they have to be in the right place. HS2 has got this badly wrong. Putting the route across the Magnesian Limestone Ridge between Mexborough and Clayton would destroy the integrity of the best South Yorkshire landscapes. CPRE made a host of constructive suggestions to reduce the impact, and none have been taken on board. This is incredibly disappointing”.
It comes after The Woodland Trust also hit out at the HS2 plans for Yorkshire, warning it will result in the loss of five ancient woods. The HS2 plans are currently out to public consultation, with finalised proposals going to Parliament in 2020. Construction of the line is due to start in 2024 and trains are expected to be running by 2033.
An HS2 Ltd spokeswoman said: “We have demonstrated our commitment to designing the railway to be sympathetic to local context, environment and social setting. As work evolves we will continue to seek to reduce harm to the environment and deliver a programme of mitigation taking account of responses to the public consultation.”