HS2's impact on wildlife

Barn Owl (C) Margaret Holland

Bechstein’s bats

Bechstein’s bats, one of Britain’s rarest mammals, are living in ancient woodlands either side of the proposed HS2 (high speed rail) route in north Buckinghamshire. As a European Protected Species and UK Biodiversity Action Plan species, they have the highest possible level of statutory wildlife protection in the UK. Thus, the population of Bechstein’s bats in the Bernwood Forest area is highly significant and could be more important than many existing designated sites.

Researchers from the University of Leeds were asked by the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) to review the approach taken by HS2 Ltd, and investigate the impacts of mitigation proposals on colonies of the Bechstein’s bat in Bernwood Forest. They concluded that, without significant changes, the proposals would put the bats at risk of local extinction instead of protecting them. They were particularly critical of ‘mitigation measures’ outlined in HS2 Ltd’s Environmental Statement, which included short bridges and underpasses, and an 800m long barrier to prevent bats colliding with trains.

More information from The Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust

Small Blue Butterfly

Sadly, the last known site in Northamptonshire for the rare small blue butterfly - the UK’s smallest butterfly - will be completely destroyed by the new HS2 rail line. The Helmdon site, (a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)) is one of only few remaining protected wildlife hotspots where this species survives.

More information from The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire

Barn Owls

The HS2 route goes through several barn owl 'hot spots'. The barn owl is covered by the Staffordshire Biodiversity Action Plan species, while the Barn Owl Action Group has been very active in boosting barn owl numbers over the last few years. Not only would habitat be lost and severed, but high speed trains would pose a further threat to low-flying hunting owls.

Mammal Migration

A number of mammal species present in the Midlands have landscape-scale population dynamics requiring movement and habitat patches that HS2 may present a major barrier against. These species are likely to include roe deer, fox, fallow, otter, brown long eared bat, badger, brown hare, polecat, rabbit, weasel, stoat, harvest mouse, common mole, water shrew and lesser horseshoe bat.

More information from The Warwickshire Wildlife Trust