HS2 mustn’t fail nature – Government needs a new vision

Thursday 16th May 2013

cpt Philip Preceycpt Philip Precey

The true impact of the proposed High Speed Rail link (HS2) remains unclear, despite the Government publishing a 3,000 page draft Environmental Statement for Phase One of the project today.

The draft statement, which assesses the impact of the first phase of the route between London and the West Midlands, was published today but the Government admitted that it cannot yet fully identify the ecological effects of the project as survey work is still not yet complete.

The Wildlife Trusts’ initial analysis suggested that more than 360 important wildlife sites are at risk along the whole route.  This includes four Wildlife Trust reserves, 10 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), more than 50 ancient woodlands and numerous local wildlife sites in the first phase alone.

It is critical that Government comes up with a compelling and ambitious vision for how the project will benefit nature and people

A public consultation on the Environmental Statement runs for just eight weeks until Thursday 11 July.  Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscapes for The Wildlife Trusts, warns that much more needs to be done if the project is to avoid falling dramatically short of protecting and enhancing our natural heritage.  He said: 

If the Government wants the country to be a world leader, then it should ensure that HS2 is a pioneering example of minimum damage and maximum repair for nature.  So, it is critical that Government comes up with a compelling and ambitious vision for how the project will benefit nature and people, not just journey times and jobs.  We have heard the Government’s argument for the economy, growth and jobs, and now we need to hear how HS2 will support nature’s recovery, by ensuring there is more wildlife and not less by the time the project is complete.”

Also today, the National Audit Office has published a report stating that it has "reservations" about how the planned high-speed rail link would deliver growth and jobs.  Paul Wilkinson continued: 

If, according to the National Audit Office, HS2 could fail for jobs and growth, then it must not also fail for nature.”

The Wildlife Trusts will now be examining the Government’s assessment of the impact on a site by site basis and responding to the Government’s consultation.  The final Environmental Statement will be included in the HS2 Hybrid Bill, which is due to go before Parliament later this year. 

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Tagged with: Living Landscapes