HS2 should not get the green light in current form

Today, an edited version of an open letter to the Prime Minister was printed in The Times. It calls on Boris Johnson to stop and rethink current plans for HS2 in light of the hugely damaging impact it'll have on our natural world. Signed by the UK's environmental charities and ambassadors, the full letter can be read below.

Dear Sir

High Speed 2 (HS2) should not get a green light from the Prime Minister in its current form. The financial costs of the project are under intense scrutiny, but so should the huge impact on the natural environment. It will be far too damaging to hundreds of important wild places and the nature that depends on them.

The recent report from The Wildlife Trusts shows that if allowed to continue unchanged, HS2 will risk damaging or destroying irreplaceable habitats such as internationally important wetlands, ancient woods, meadows and Sites of Special Scientific Interest that are supposed to be protected under UK law. Once lost, they will be gone forever.

Large areas of land that have already been restored using public money will also be at risk. Scientists say that nature is in deep trouble in the UK; the HS2 project threatens to be a severe setback to the great efforts being made to restore it. It is not just wildlife that will lose out – people will too. Many of the wild places at risk are treasured by locals who value the connection these provide to the natural world and the increased health and happiness they bring.

Green transport is vital but the climate emergency will not be solved by making the nature crisis worse. The two are inextricably linked. We urge the Government to stop and rethink this project. The impact on the natural environment must be properly assessed and the proposals fully reviewed. Major infrastructure projects should seek to boost the natural world, not put it further at risk. Nature need not pay a price for HS2.

Yours faithfully,

NGO Chief Executives

Hilary McGrady, Director-General, National Trust

Patience Thody, Acting CEO, The Wildlife Trusts

Beccy Speight, Chief Executive, RSPB

Craig Bennett, CEO, Friends of the Earth

Tanya Steele, Chief Executive, WWF

Darren Moorcroft, CEO, Woodland Trust

John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace

Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive, Buglife

Julie Williams, Chief Executive, Butterfly Conservation

Ambassadors and supporters

Chris Packham, Naturalist and TV Presenter

Chris Baines, Naturalist and Vice President of The Wildlife Trusts

Sir Robert Worcester KBE DL, Vice President of The Wildlife Trusts

Julian Pettifer, Vice President of The Wildlife Trusts

Sophie Pavelle, Zoologist & Science Communicator

Dr Amir Khan, GP and Presenter, GPs Behind Closed Doors

David Oakes, Actor and Host of Trees a Crowd Podcast

Ceallach Spellman, Actor and Presenter

Amy Jane Beer, Biologist and writer

Melissa Harrison, Author

Abi Elphinstone, Author

Yussef Rafik, Zoologist and wildlife presenter