HS2 bosses have been accused of “cynical corporate greenwashing” after revealing a raft of environmental plans.
The firm has unveiled proposals for a ‘green corridor’ consisting of new wildlife habitats, native woodlands and community spaces to help integrate the controversial high speed line into the surrounding landscape.
The line linking London and Birmingham will stretch for 216km – of which 54km will cut through the heart of Warwickshire –
and there has been fierce criticism of the potential environmental impact.
HS2 bosses say the new ‘green corridor’ will include seven million new trees and shrubs, including over 40 native species, specific to each location.
It will also feature new native woodlands covering over nine square kilometres of land, and more than 33 square kilometres of new and existing wildlife habitat equating to an area the size of 4,600 football pitches.
The proposals also include tailor-made homes for wildlife, ranging from bat houses to 226 new ponds for great crested newts and other amphibians.
And earthworks and landscaping will re-use around 90 per cent of the material excavated during construction.
HS2 say it is also looking to support community projects and develop public parks, open spaces and nature reserves.
The firm is encouraging local people and organisations to get involved in everything from landscape design to tree planting – including supporting local environmental projects through its community funds.
HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston said: “I’m determined to ensure HS2 works for the environment and local communities.
“This starts by doing everything we can to reduce our environmental footprint and minimise the expected impact of our construction work. Longer-term, we’ll be leaving behind a network of new wildlife habitats, woodlands, and community spaces, helping to create a lasting legacy along the route.
“We’ve already got to work by supporting a range of community projects and creating a series of new habitats, including planting over 230,000 trees so far. We’ll be calling on local people and organisations to get involved as the green corridor starts to take shape”
But anti-HS2 campaigners were quick to criticise the plans.
Stop HS2 campaign manager and Kenilworth resident Joe Rukin said: “With 98 irreplaceable ancient woodlands under threat from HS2, this announcement is cynical corporate greenwashing at its worst, in the hope it will distract people from the fact HS2 is late, billions of pounds over-budget and spiralling out of control.
“If this is setting a new standard for how infrastructure projects are delivered, then everyone better beware, because the government have thrown away every precedent and legal protection they could, allowing HS2 to be designed to be as environmentally destructive as possible.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, added there were ‘real concerns’ about the scale of environmental impact.
She said: “There are numerous ancient woodlands that will be directly and indirectly affected by HS2, as well as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and HS2 will also have a devastating effect on bat populations along the route. But the greenwashing has already started.”