In the first of a series of blogs on how HS2 is impacting the built environment sector, we look at how its regulatory requirements are influencing operations and even setting standards:
As construction of the UK’s latest high speed rail link – HS2 – continues, its development looks likely to have a long-term impact on more than just the transport sector and economy.
HS2 promises to deliver benefits for businesses and communities – relieving congestion on existing road and rail routes, reducing travel times and linking areas in a bid to balance the economy out of London and into other major cities.
But it is also set to influence operations and standards for the wider built environment sector, as it sets high standards for project delivery and environmental protection.
Such a high-profile project must ensure absolute adherence to relevant regulations and legislation. So as well as adhering to the relevant legislation of statutory bodies, including the EA and SEPA, HS2 is also bound by its own Environmental Minimum Requirements (EMRs).
These, set out in Code of Construction Practice documents (CoCPs) individually defined for each phase of the project, outline the control measures and standards to be implemented and maintained “to protect communities and the environment during construction works”. With so many suppliers, contractors and developers contributing to the delivery of HS2, working in urban and rural locations across England, setting out clear requirements is key.
In setting out principles and policies of environmental protection for such a sizable national project, the EMRs are setting the standard for responsible construction activities across the board.
The EMRs are thorough, setting general provisions, measures and monitoring guidance for a wide range of considerations or challenges. This includes guidance for:
- Handling and storing reusable soil and topsoil – managing land, ground and soils to reduce negative impact on biodiversity and preventing loss of quality soils;
- Managing surface water and groundwater – capturing, collecting or diverting water run-off, preventing pollution or harm to biodiversity, and reducing the risk of floods;
- Minimising dust creation – implementing dust control measures to reduce the risk of air or water pollution;
- Managing air and land quality – reducing negative impact on air quality or land quality from potential pollutants;
- Protecting habitats – identifying native species and habitats, trees and biodiversity within sites, and ensuring thorough environmental protection measures to prevent negative impact, pollution or loss;
- Monitoring mitigation measures – monitoring the impact of construction works and effectiveness of mitigation techniques to ensure compliance, and taking other actions as may be necessary.
Additionally, for the benefits of the wider environment, personnel on-site and nearby neighbours and communities, the EMRs also cover:
- Managing waste – reducing waste creation, managing waste streams and correctly disposing of waste materials;
- Storing materials, machinery and plant – including for fire prevention, pollution control and worker safety;
- Understanding cultural heritage – recognising the importance of correct and appropriate management should heritage assets or archeological remains be uncovered during works;
- Caring for workers – including occupational health, and creating or supplying temporary living or work quarters;
- Working with communities – including traffic management, implementing appropriate and sympathetic working hours, managing and limiting noise, vibration and light creation or pollution, and reinstating ground on completion of works.
As with all EMRs, guidance sits in line British and European ISO 14001 standards – to “effectively monitor and measure environmental performance”. And alongside adherence to these, project leads will need to be in continuous consultation with various advisory bodies and experts throughout the project. As well as working with the Environment Agency and Natural England – the non-departmental public body, sponsored by DEFRA, advising the government on the natural environment – on a project-wide approach, local wildlife trusts, with expert knowledge on native species in specific areas, and local planning authorities will also be consulted.
With such comprehensive guidance, HS2 is likely to have a significant impact on both the built environment sector and geotechnical and environmental market in the UK.
The suppliers and contractors who stay abreast of these guidelines will be positioned to thrive, particularly as investment in infrastructure continues at pace across the UK economy. Understanding which obligations impact your operations and delivering best practice application of risk mitigation will be key.
For help and advice on how these regulations might impact your future projects, or guidance on the solutions which can optimize ongoing projects, get in touch.