HS2 and tourism impacts

HS2 and tourism impacts – on February 23rd, HS2 received Royal Assent to begin construction. So what are the implications for visitor attractions and tourism in general? Opinions vary significantly with some, like Marketing Birmingham, saying that the improved rail network will draw more tourists out of London and have a tremendous impact on the local economy.

The Environmental Statement released in November 2013 prompted a huge response with fierce opposition objecting to both the construction and operation of the new line.

Complaints related to a number of issues including:

  • Changes to views and ‘sense of place’
  • Dissection of areas
  • Noise pollution
  • Creation of ‘haul roads’ in rural areas
  • Conservation
  • Loss of ancient woodland
  • Light pollution
  • Lack of archaeological fieldwork
  • Impact on historic character
  • Threat to waterways
  • Impact on visitor experiences
  • Operation of attractions

Several National bodies voiced opinions during consultation periods however not all were negative. In a 2015 Guardian article, Ed Green, CEO of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, agreed that HS2, if planned well, had the potential to benefit the environment, providing a natural corridor through the intensively farmed English countryside. The report ‘A Greener Vision for HS2’ put forward an ambitious vision for large-scale nature restoration along the proposed route and it remains to be seen to what degree this will be implemented and how effective this will be.

The route passes through fourteen Wildlife Trusts and one section which has attracted major attention is the 3.6km viaduct passing through the Colne Valley Regional Park, west of London. In February ’17, as a result of petitioning at the House of Commons, HS2 Ltd allocated £3m to protect the environment in this area, including the relocation of nature reserves, the creation of alternative woodland routes and new visitor attractions. The Additional Mitigation Plan (AMP) set out a number of objectives which are sure to be shared by other landowners and communities impacted along the route:

  • Maintain and enhance the landscape
  • Safeguard the Countryside
  • Conserve and enhance biodiversity
  • Provide opportunities for countryside recreation
  • Achieve a vibrant and sustainable rural economy
  • Encourage community participation
  • Raise the profile of the regional park
  • Secure a long term sustainable future

A range of projects are outlined in the AMP, many of which could have a positive impact on both wildlife and visitors:

  • Enhancement of recreation routes, directing visitors away from noise where needed
  • Improved directional signage and interpretation
  • Newly created or opened up viewpoints
  • Construction of species specific wildlife habitats offering opportunities for public access and education
  • Visitor facilities
  • Public art
  • Local community engagement
  • Consistent branding

The ideas proposed for Colne Valley could be put into practice at other sites affected by HS2. Planning Solutions Consulting can offer a fresh pair of eyes to review the operations at an attraction or site level and propose solutions to manage the changes ahead.

Although many sites affected by HS2 may not have attracted the investment of Colne Valley, funding does exist to help mitigate the impacts of the development. In our follow up blog we have set out information on the new grants system.

How can we help?

In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more about how Planning Solutions Consulting could help you in terms of developing a migration plan, please contact Richard Linington – richard@pslplan.co.uk or call 023 9248 1999