The Government has quietly reduced its ‘landscape value’ by about 90% in some of the finest countryside areas of England. This move hurts the green belt the most and came at the same time that reports were being published by ministers that asked for planning laws to be relaxed so that greenfield sites could be built on top of.
Campaigners discovered the new values when they asked for a series of Freedom of Information Act requests issued about the HS2 high speed rail line. Eventually the Government wants the rail to run across the Chiltrens and the green belt of London.
The landscape impact value is used to help quantify the amount of cash that green space could be worth to the environment and to Britain. The measure is then used to determine the value that would come from commercial sale of the land versus the damage that development of the area could cause.
The HS2 Ltd did an assessment of the high speed rail line in 2010 and found that the 109 mile route that reaches from Birmingham to London will cause about £4.3b worth of damage to the landscape if the plans are completed as intended.
In fact, one of the Chiltern AONB sections that lie along the London green belt will impact the environment by an estimated £1.1b. The Department of Transport commissioned a new assessment and found that the impact damage for the route will actually only be about £114 which is only about a tenth of the original figure.
Some of these reductions are the result of measures that were taken to lessen the impact of the line such as creating ‘greener’ tunnels and similar efforts. However, the valuation system mostly just devalued the green value of the countryside to make the costs less.