OVER 100,000 people have urged the government to pause construction on the controversial HS2 high speed rail link, claiming it will cause more damage to nature than originally permitted.
Representatives from The Wildlife Trusts have handed an open letter – signed by over 104,000 people – to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, urging the government to address ’biodiversity loss’ caused by HS2 Ltd.
A report by the Trusts – including Warwickshire Wildlife Trust – claims official calculations on how much nature will be lost ‘don’t add up’.
It says Phase 1 of the scheme – which covers 140 miles of track between London and the West Midlands – will cause at least 7.9 times more nature loss than accounted for by HS2 Ltd.
The Trusts fear the losses of woodlands, grasslands and hedgerows will go unchallenged due to an ‘undervaluing of nature’ – and that not enough will be put back to compensate.
Ed Green, chief executive of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, said there were ‘a host of inaccuracies’ built into HS2 Ltd’s approach.
He said: “HS2 Ltd needs to be held to account by the Government for its failings, and must correct its mapping and errors in its figures.
“This project is taking a wrecking ball to wildlife, and communities are in despair at losing the wild places they love.
“HS2 Ltd needs to provide far more nature compensation than it’s currently offering because it has seriously underestimated the impacts to biodiversity.
“We want to see a minimum of 10 per cent biodiversity net gain along every phase of the route.”
An HS2 spokesperson said the Trusts’ campaign was based on an ‘unreliable’ report.
They told The Observer: “HS2’s metrics and standards are based on surveys carried out by ecologists visiting huge areas of land.
“Independent experts from Natural England have been consulted on our methodology and it has been rigorously assessed by a team of professional ecologists.”
They added that in Warwickshire, new wildlife sites had been created at Stoneleigh and Kenilworth – and 60,000 trees had been planted around South Cubbington Wood, where there had been a net loss of 2.2 hectares of woodland.
A Government spokesperson said: “We do not accept the Wildlife Trust’s claim.
“HS2 will protect and enhance our natural world by delivering no net loss to biodiversity across the entire route.”
They claimed there would be a 30 per cent increase in wildlife habitat on Phase 1 of the project.
Visit https://tinyurl.com/48jx8yy8d to read The Wildlife Trusts’ report.
Visit https://tinyurl.com/ytj72x2s to read HS2’s Sustainability Vision.