Groups eye environmental impact as HS2 rail link is approved in principle

High Speed 2 (HS2), the proposed £33bn rail link from London to Birmingham that was approved in principle last week, has divided industry leaders.

Landscape Institute chief executive Alastair McCapra said concessions on the route and tunnels meant that the project did not necessarily spell disaster for green spaces. Designers had "a great deal of expertise" to deliver this kind of project to minimise damage, he added.

Campaign to Protect Rural England chief executive Shaun Spiers welcomed the Government's commitment to invest in rail rather than new roads or air travel but remained worried about the "unacceptable" impact.

But Woodland Trust head of campaigning Nikki Williams said environmental impacts had not been properly assessed. "Any government agreeing to the destruction of 21 ancient woodlands cannot call itself the 'greenest ever'."

The Freight Transport Association said HS2 must not "subjugate rail freight needs". But Garden Centre Association chair Peter Burks said: "Many stores do not get products delivered by rail and building work would disrupt centres in the vicinity."

NFU planning policy adviser Ivan Moss said: "Our priority is to minimise disruption for businesses, ensure fair compensation for land purchase and make sure those living and working in the countryside are not disproportionately impacted."

HS2 Ltd responded: "We still have consultations and environmental impact assessments before royal assent in 2016. Lots of changes could happen."

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