The HS2 rail project will cause destruction to nature on a vast scale, environmental campaigners have warned.
The Wildlife Trusts described its new report 'What’s the damage? Why HS2 will cost nature too much’ as the most comprehensive assessment of the environmental damage that HS2 will cause.
An HS2 Ltd graphic of a 'green bridge'
The report assesses impacts across all phases of HS2 on protected wildlife sites, species and landscape restoration projects and ‘shows that HS2 will divide and destroy huge swathes of irreplaceable natural habitat and important protected wildlife sites up the length of England,’ the group said.
Director of campaigns and policy Nikki Williams said: ‘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.’
She added: ‘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 said it believes that if the project has to go ahead, a new approach is needed that leaves the natural world in a better condition than it was before.
Responding to the report, HS2 said that by helping cut the number of cars and lorries on roads and cutting demand for domestic flights, the scheme would help the country’s fight against climate change.'
A spokesperson said: 'The number of sites presented in this report as being at risk of loss, or significant impact simply isn’t accurate.
'HS2 take the environmental cost of construction very seriously. That is why we’re delivering an unprecedented programme of tree planting and habitat creation alongside the new railway - with seven million new trees and shrubs set to be planted between London and Birmingham alone - new native woodland planted to link up ancient woodland, and tailored mitigation plans in place for protected species.'
The report states that HS2’s current proposals will risk the loss of, or significantly impact:
- Five 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:
- Four Nature Improvement Areas awarded £1.7m 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.