WILDLIFE chiefs are warning of the vast scale of destruction HS2 will cause to nature.
The Wildlife Trusts’ new report ‘What’s the damage? Why HS2 will cost nature too much’ assesses the broad range of impacts the controversial high speed line will have on protected wildlife sites, species and landscape restoration projects.
Drawing on data from 14 Wildlife Trusts affected by the current plans, together with other charities and landowners along the route, the report concludes HS2 will divide and destroy huge swathes of irreplaceable natural habitat and important protected wildlife sites the length of England.
It says this would cause permanent loss of nature, increased fragmentation of wild places, and the extinction of endangered species.
Locally – 54km of the line will cut through Warwickshire – the report indicates more than 8.1 hectares of ancient woodland will be lost, including across South Cubbington, and Crackley Woods and Roughknowles Wood in Kenilworth. Nature reserves within five kilometres of the route, including Leam Valley, Broadwells Wood and Tocil Wood near Kenilworth, and Bubbenhall Wood, along with a number of local wildlife sites, would also be impacted.
Nikki Williams, The Wildlife Trusts’ director of campaigns and policy said: “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.
And Ms Williams was not impressed by HS2’s plans to create a ‘green corridor’ – consisting of new wildlife habitats, native woodlands and community spaces with the aim of helping integrate the line into the surrounding landscape and environment.
She added: “The data shows 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.
Ms Williams said: “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.”
But HS2 Ltd dismissed the report on the line as inaccurate.
A spokesperson said: “All leading wildlife organisations agree that climate change is the biggest future threat to wildlife and habitats in the UK. By providing a cleaner, greener way to travel, HS2 will help cut the number of cars and lorries on our roads, cut demand for domestic flights, and help the country’s fight against climate change.
“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.”
Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said the destruction had already started.
The Kenilworth resident said: “HS2 Ltd has consistently tried to greenwash the impacts of their planned ecocide and downplay the destruction they plan to carry out, but even we are shocked by the sheer scale of the level of planned devastation the Wildlife Trusts have discovered.
“The greatest shame is that despite there being a review of the future of HS2, some of the sites they have identified are being destroyed right now, the work has not stopped.
“The Wildlife Trust has identified 693 classified wildlife sites that are threatened by HS2, but we know it will be fewer than that now, as HS2 Ltd have wantonly carried on with their irreversible vandalism during the review process.”
Click here to download the full report.