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Insight | Early intervention to smooth HS2's environmental journey

Greater crested newts 3to2

High Speed 2 Ltd’s civils contractors are poised to reap the benefits of close working between environmental teams at HS2 Ltd and the Environment Agency.

It is hoped early and monthly dialogue between the newly appointed contractors, HS2 Ltd and the Environment Agency will streamline the potentially onerous environmental permitting process.

The Environment Agency said the number of permits which it would have to issue was on a scale not seen before and welcomed the measure to cut time and create efficiencies.

“We’ve set up monthly meetings with each contractor, which is a defined time that they have with the Environment Agency,” said HS2 water resources and flood risk manager Simon Dale-Lace. “We would like them to come and discuss with them, any issues that arise so it stops a constant bombardment of questions and has everyone in the room that is needed to address the questions.

“The idea is that instead of it being a rush and a panic last minute before the application, we’ve all agreed everything upfront and discussed at the monthly meeting everything in that consent should be acceptable from the get go.”

The early intervention is the result of a special agreement put in place between the two government agencies. The promoter said years of preparation had already been put into getting to this point with pre-emptive standards written to guide contractors with the requirements for environmental consent.

HS2 said an example of such a standard was when designing a box culvert. In addition to the structural design, the standard also includes measures such as mammal ledges and baffles to assist with upstream fish passage.

“This tells the contractor, this is the minimum they have to do for the flood risk, aquatic ecology and drainage maintenance perspective,” said Dale -Lace. “All they have to do then is scale it up as appropriate.

“It means that when you then get the consent for the minimum specification for a box culvert, the Environment Agency should already be happy with it. We should then just be checking is it the right size for that water course.”

HS2 Ltd is also holding best practice and lessons learnt workshops every quarter for the contractors, and sharing method statements which have worked well and have been deemed acceptable on other parts of the route.

“For us, it’s taking that baseline and as the design evolves we can continually check they’re heading down the right path,” said Dale-Lace.

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