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.

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:

UK wide

  • 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.

Derbyshire specific

 At least 225 hectares of wildlife rich habitat will either be lost or significantly reduced and fragmented. That’s the equivalent of about 340 football pitches.

  • This includes over 56 important wildlife sites including ancient woodlands, ponds, meadows, hedgerows will be affected in some way by construction. 32 of these sites will be totally destroyed or loose over 50% of their habitat. Birds and animals including lapwing, bearded tit, reed bunting, swallow, cuckoo, skylark, grass snakes, otters, badgers and hedgehogs will lose their habitat.
  • Rare butterflies including dingy skipper, small heath and white-letter hairstreak will also be affected and populations of dingy skipper could disappear entirely.
  •  Locations where we expect significant impacts include parts of the Erewash valley, land adjacent to the Normanton Brook near Hilcote, either side of the Doe Lea river west of Bolsover including Carr Vale reserve, Peter Fidler Reserve and and Snipe Bog. Towards Chesterfield important wetlands will be lost including the Doe Lea Flash and many newly restored and created ponds. Several ancient woodlands along the route will also be partially destroyed.
  • The Sheffield spur line will leave the main HS2 route near Hilcote and cut straight through the middle of Doe Hill Community Park which means 20 ha of wetland, grassland and woodland, homes for water vole and grass snake will be lost.
  • The Wildlife Trusts are now calling for a stop and rethink on HS2 and urging people to sign a letter for the Prime Minister wtru.st/ReThink-HS2
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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.”

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.

Kieron Huston, Biodiversity manager at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust said; “At a time when 41% of wildlife species are in decline across the UK, we are especially concerned about the impact HS2 will have on Derbyshire’s wildlife and we are urging people to join us in asking the Prime Minister for a stop and rethink. Once the 25 mile section is built through our region, the wider damage and changes to the landscape from storage and construction will be considerable. Our own assessment paints a bleak picture showing the decimation of wildlife in the Derbyshire Coalfields - an area only just recovering from the ravages of coal mining, quarries, steel and iron works. We believe there has been Insufficient work by HS2 consultants to properly assess the Wildlife impacts, so any offers of mitigation and compensation could still result in large losses of wildlife and their homes.”

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