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Government overturns council block on HS2 Colne Valley work

Colne valley viaduct

The government has overruled Hillingdon Council’s rejection of High Speed 2 Ltd’s (HS2) application to build a new wetland habitat around the Colne Valley Viaduct in west London.

In a letter to the council and HS2 Ltd, transport secretary Chris Grayling and housing and local government secretary James Brokenshire announced that they had overturned Hillingdon Council’s decision, giving HS2 Ltd the green light to go ahead with the works.       

HS2 Ltd had applied to the council for permission to carry out the environmental mitigation works under schedule 17 of the High Speed Rail Act in preparation for building the controversial new 4.3km long Colne Valley Viaduct. The Act enables construction of phase of of HS2.

The application was rejected by the council which said that too little information had been provided about the archaeological aspects of the work to be carried out.

An independent planning inspector found that HS2 Ltd had provided enough information on the ecology, but not for archaeology.

But Grayling and Brokenshire ruled that the application did have enough information and overturned the council’s rejection.

Their letter states: “The Secretaries of State therefore find that there was no legitimate basis for refusing to approve the Schedule 17 application.

“They hereby allow [HS2’s] appeal and approve the Schedule 17 application for the creation of the Colne Valley Viaduct South Embankment wetland habitat ecological mitigation comprising earthworks and fencing.” 

Under the High Speed Rail Act, HS2 Ltd must apply for a Schedule 17 from the local authority for works including new buildings being built above ground, earth works and site restoration. As the bill already grants planning permission for the line, the Schedule 17 sets out the conditions, relating to the design and construction of the railway, of the deemed planning permission.

An HS2 spokesperson said: “This decision confirms our interpretation of the High Speed Rail Act 2017 and the environmental controls we have in place. We will be delivering a green corridor alongside the railway – a network of wildlife habitats, woodlands and community spaces featuring 7M new trees and shrubs along the route from London to Birmingham. 

“We are also conducting the largest archaeological exploration ever in Britain, employing a record number of skilled archaeologists and heritage specialists from across the UK and beyond.”

Hillingdon Council has yet to decide if it will request a judicial review of the government’s decision.

The work to create the new south embankment wetland habitat ecological mitigation site includes earthworks to create a mitigation pond, reptile basking bank, two hibernaculas – a retreat for hibernating animals – and fencing.

The new viaduct will pass through the Colne Valley Regional Park as part of the first phase of the project. 

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