HS2 – new report reveals exorbitant cost to nature

A new report published by The Wildlife Trusts today reveals, for the first time, the vast scale of the destruction and impact that HS2 will cause to nature.

A new report published by The Wildlife Trusts today reveals, for the first time, the vast scale of the destruction and impact that HS2 will cause to nature. 'What’s the damage?  Why HS2 will cost nature too much is the most comprehensive assessment of the environmental damage that HS2 will cause. It assesses the broad range of impacts across all phases of HS2 on protected wildlife sites, species and landscape restoration projects.

HS2 will destroy precious carbon-capturing habitats if it’s allowed to continue in its current form

 

Drawing on data from 14 Wildlife Trusts affected by the current plans, other charities and landowners* along the route, the report shows that HS2 will divide and destroy huge swathes of irreplaceable natural habitat and important protected wildlife sites up the length of England.

This will cause permanent loss of nature, increased fragmentation of wild places, and the local extinction of endangered species.

The report finds that HS2’s current proposals will risk the loss of, or significantly impact:

  • 5  Wildlife refuges of international importance, protected by UK law
  • 33  Sites of Special Scientific Interest which are protected by UK law
  • 693  Classified Local Wildlife Sites
  • 21  Designated Local Nature Reserves
  • 26  Large landscape-scale initiatives, including:
    • 4  Nature Improvement Areas awarded £1.7 million of public money
    • 22  Living Landscapes – partnership schemes to restore nature
  • 18  Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves – many are also designated wildlife sites
  • 108  Ancient woodlands, an irreplaceable habitat
  • Other irreplaceable habitats such as veteran trees, wood pasture, old meadows
  • Extensive further areas of wider natural habitat
  • Barn owls and endangered wildlife such white-clawed crayfish, willow tit and lizard orchid. Rarities like dingy skipper may become locally extinct.

Nikki Williams, The Wildlife Trusts’ director of campaigns and policy says:

“The figures are grim and the reality is worse. The potential loss of so many really important wild places and the wildlife that depends on them has never been revealed before – nor has the damage that will be done to taxpayer-funded, nature recovery projects. HS2 will destroy precious carbon-capturing habitats if it’s allowed to continue in its current form – it will damage the very ecosystems that provide a natural solution to the climate emergency.

“The data also shows that HS2 Ltd’s proposed mitigation and compensation is inadequate and the small measures that they have suggested are inappropriate – amateurish suggestions of paltry measures in the wrong places. Nature and our climate are already in big trouble and we must not make a dire situation even worse – that’s why we are calling on the Prime Minister to stop and rethink the entire development.”

The Wildlife Trusts believe that if HS2 has to go ahead, a new approach is needed – one that, in keeping with current government commitments, takes a greener approach which leaves the natural world in a better condition than it was before.

Nikki Williams adds:

“The Government has pledged to create a Nature Recovery Network – a commitment to reverse wildlife’s decline by creating more habitat and green arteries that allow nature to spread and thrive once more. Developments like HS2 should not be a permanent barrier to wildlife – they should be designed to enhance, not harm, the environment. It’s not too late to stop and rethink now – before HS2 creates a scar that can never heal.”

Read The Wildlife Trusts’ report What’s the damage? Why HS2 will cost nature too much’ 

The Wildlife Trusts are urging people to send a message to the Prime Minister – stop and rethink! Our e-action will be live from Wednesday 15th January.

Early on in the planning stages of HS2, The Wildlife Trusts developed A Greener Vision for HS2. This report provides the large-scale thinking lacking from current HS2 Ltd plans and, if considered, could provide the net gain for wildlife that is so vital to allow our natural world to recover. While HS2 Ltd has proposed a green corridor along the route, it is far from adequate and can only be seen as a start to delivering a necessarily more ambitious vision.

The Wildlife Trusts are deeply concerned at reports that HS2 has removed its intention to “minimise the combined effect of the project” on climate change and the environment from its policy.

The report has the full support of the National Trust, RSPB and Woodland Trust. 

Hilary McGrady, Director General of National Trust, said: “The National Trust welcomes this report from The Wildlife Trusts. Nature is under threat, vulnerable natural habitats have never been in greater need of protection. As Europe’s largest project of its kind, HS2 Ltd has a vital responsibility to lead by example and get this right by delivering a net gain for nature. We recognise that designing the railway is a long process but plans for HS2 must not end up cutting corners at the expense of the environment. We are committed to playing our part to help with this but HS2 Ltd has a responsibility to step up and lead the charge.”

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Ecosystems permanently damaged. Irreplaceable wild places destroyed.

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HS2 have commented on our report. Here’s our response:

HS2 argue that they are providing a greener way to travel – yet HS2 will destroy precious, irreplaceable, carbon-capturing habitats if it’s allowed to continue in its current form. It will damage the very ecosystems that provide a natural solution to the climate emergency.  The need for sustainable transport is undeniable, but the climate crisis will not be solved by making the biodiversity crisis worse.

HS2 say the report doesn’t stack-up and it’s not new. However, The Wildlife Trusts’ report is the most comprehensive assessment of the environmental damage that HS2 could cause if the approach is not reconsidered. This report has gathered and presented data that has been used in Wildlife Trust and NGO petitions to HS2, responses to HS2 Environmental Statements and many other sources. The report presents all the data on the natural environment together – in one place for the first time – to help assess overall impact of HS2 upon wild places and some of the species that will be affected under current proposals. The Environmental Statement for Phase 1 alone was 55,000 pages long – so it’s hard for anyone to assess the potential damage when the information is so dispersed. That’s why The Wildlife Trusts wrote the report – the vast scale of the damage needs to be highlighted.

HS2 state that they’re mitigating for the damage that it will cause. But HS2’s mitigation and compensation proposals do not begin to address the enormity of HS2’s impacts – they are simply not succeeding in their efforts to stop the damage to important wild places and species along the route. HS2 claim that they continue to undertake one of the largest biodiversity and habitat surveys in the UK. Unfortunately this is simply not the case; the information provided in the HS2 Environmental Statements lacks up-to-date survey data and information, and many sites and areas remain un-surveyed.

The Wildlife Trusts’ report brings together all the known risks, which have been gathered from 14 Wildlife Trusts and other landowners  – National Trust, Woodland Trust, RSPB and Chilterns Conservation Board – along the route, based on their extensive expertise, local knowledge and the information provided by HS2 Ltd in its Environmental Statements. The conclusion is clear – HS2’s current proposals will cost nature far too much. That’s why we’re saying the time has come to stop and rethink.

As part of their mitigation plans HS2 has said they will translocate (move) some protected species. This is not that simple. Replacement habitat needs to be created and can take years to reach suitable conditions. These replacement habitats should have been created years ago to ensure any chance of success.