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New vision for HS2 landscape urged
Green campaigners are calling for a more ambitious landscaping strategy to prevent HS2 becoming "an eyesore for generations to come".
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said HS2 Ltd's mitigation strategy includes planting up to two million trees, many of them fast-growing, to hide the London to Birmingham high-speed line.
But CPRE added that maps it had produced showed that "along most of the route, the area where you can see HS2 will be just as extensive 15 years after opening as when the first trains start running (in 2026)."
According to the maps, there are large areas of the countryside where local people and visitors will be able to see the trains and infrastructure cutting through the landscape.
The CPRE said that under current proposals HS2 will in places be visible along a corridor that is up to six kilometres (just over 3.7 miles) wide.
The CPRE wants to see a more ambitious approach to protecting the landscape such as more extensive planting strategies along a green corridor, public competitions for the design of major structures and the putting under ground of nearby electricity transmission lines.
Ralph Smyth, senior transport campaigner at CPRE, said: " The requirement for high-speed railways to be straight inevitably leads to more visible infrastructure, such as bridges, making it more important that local authorities have the power to integrate the route into the existing landscape.
"Current plans for HS2 are for mass-produced, characterless concrete bridges to be built along the route. It's as if a thousand, standardised, flat-packed bookcases will be erected alongside rolling fields, their intrusive colour and jarring lines standing out far and wide against the varying patchwork quilt of fields, lanes and hedges of some of England's most stunning countryside."
He went on: " Ministers say they share our concerns but have yet to deliver the long-promised design panel and inspiring vision for how HS2 could be accommodated within the existing landscape and maybe in places even enhance it."
HS2 lead spokesman Ben Ruse said: "We have sought to integrate HS2 into the countryside with the minimum of disturbance while taking into account costs and feasibility.
"Current designs for viaducts and other parts of the infrastructure are purely indicative at this stage and will be subject to revision. At this stage, any images do not represent final, detailed design. This design development will include consultation with relevant stakeholders."