A significant number of nationally and locally important designated nature areas now face a welcome reprieve although The Wildlife Trusts will watch the proposed upgrading of other routes carefully to see if new threats to nature emerge. We will push for the delivery of net gain for nature as part of any infrastructure upgrade works.
Nikki Williams, The Wildlife Trusts’ director for Campaigning and Communities says:
“The Wildlife Trusts have long campaigned against HS2 – alongside thousands of others – because of the huge damage it will do to nature and communities along the route. Now the Integrated Rail Plan has made it clear that there are alternatives to HS2.
“We support the principle of sustainable transport, but along with other nature charities, we cannot back such an environmentally catastrophic project. The first phase of the route is already under construction and we’re witnessing the shocking reality for affected communities and the much-loved countryside that has been destroyed around them.
“We live in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and HS2 is the cause of yet more loss of some of our most important wild places. As COP26 ends it’s time for HS2 Ltd to respond to the interlinked global crises of climate change and biodiversity loss – the company must meet its own sustainability targets but so far there is no evidence this will be achieved.”
In Derbyshire alone, the impacts of HS2 Phase 2b would have been:
· Damage to ancient woodland, flower rich grasslands, wetlands, scrubland, many miles of hedgerow and numerous trees.
· Up to 26 local wildlife sites were threatened of which 13 looked likely to be completely destroyed and another 7 would have been reduced in size by between 10 and 50%.
· Around 20 other sites of wildlife value that are currently awaiting potential designation as Local Wildlife Sites would also have been adversely affected.
Kieron Huston, biodiversity policy and planning manager, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust says:
“The cancellation of part of the HS2 eastern leg significantly reduces impacts on Derbyshire's wildlife and we certainly welcome that. We are very concerned at the level of impacts along the
route and never saw measures that would avoid or minimise the impacts here in Derbyshire. The mitigation and compensation for the loss of up to 26 local wildlife sites was still lacking in detail and in some areas the development would have increased fragmentation of habitats and wildlife corridors. One of our own reserves near Bolsover would have been damaged, and the longer-term impact of having HS2 immediately adjacent to our fragile wetland site at Carr Vale was of great concern.
“The unresolved nature of these issues led us to oppose the route on the grounds of adverse impacts on biodiversity. We always felt that there were unnecessary and avoidable impacts on many sites and that HS2 had not engaged with many of our concerns and recommendations.”
In 2019 The Wildlife Trusts, along with the Woodland Trust, RSPB and Chilterns Society, published an evidenced report, ‘What’s the damage? Why HS2 will cost nature too much’. It was the first, and only, comprehensive, whole-route review of HS2’s impact to be published. It highlighted the lack of detailed assessment at the time and showed HS2 Ltd’s proposed mitigation and compensation for nature was wholly inadequate.
The Wildlife Trusts continue to call on HS2 Ltd to publish clear and detailed plans on how the scheme will meet HS2 Ltd’s obligations to achieve ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity along the whole route, and further, a net gain for wildlife and nature. We also continue to ask HS2 Ltd and the Government to address delivery of remaining works in order to ensure further catastrophic failings can be avoided.