As it is currently planned, HS2 will divide and destroy irreplaceable natural habitat and valuable, protected, wildlife sites across the length of England. This means permanent habitat, and increased fragmentation of very important wild places and the wildlife that depends on them - including on several publicly-funded restoration projects. If it’s allowed to continue in its current form, HS2 could destroy the very ecosystems that provide a natural solution to the climate emergency.
Nature and our climate are already in big trouble - we can't allow HS2 to make a dire situation even worse!
What's more, already endangered species are at real threat of extinction at a local level.
Our report finds that HS2’s current proposals will risk causing the loss of or significantly impact:
- 5 recognised wildlife refuges of international importance, protected under international, EU and UK nature laws
- 33 official Sites of Special Scientific Interest, protected under UK nature law
- 693 classified Local Wildlife Sites, protected under UK planning policy
- 21 designated Local Nature Reserves, protected under UK nature laws
- 18 Wildlife Trust-owned Nature Reserves, all of which are cared for and managed with thanks to public funds and donations
- 108 irreplaceable Ancient Woodlands, protected under UK planning policy
- More irreplaceable habitats such as veteran trees, historic wood pasture and old meadows
- Extensive further areas of wider natural habitat
- 26 approved Large landscape-scale initiatives, including:
- 4 Nature Improvement Areas, 3 of which received £1.7million of public money for restoration
- 22 Living Landscapes – Wildlife Trust-led active partnership schemes set up to restore nature
- Barn owls and endangered wildlife populations such as white-clawed crayfish, willow tit and lizard orchid are also at risk. Rare species such as dingy skipper butterfly could become locally extinct.
Notwithstanding the serious impacts on precious and vulnerable habitats, and the risk of some species extinctions at a local level, the current plans will also make a Nature Recovery Network impossible meaning natural places and spaces across the country can’t be restored or connected.
This is unacceptable, especially in the face of a climate and ecological emergency! … and our report shows that the impacts are unnecessarily severe considering the route could be planned, and delivered, in a less damaging way. The data also shows that HS2 Ltd’s proposed mitigation and compensation is inadequate, based on inappropriate and amateurish suggestions of paltry measures in the wrong places.
This also undermines the Conservative manifesto commitment to develop the most ambitious environmental programme on earth.
For several years Wildilfe Trusts have met with politicians, HS2 Ltd representatives and their key contractors to set out the devastating effect on wildlife the project would have and to try to help. The Wildlife Trusts’ Greener Vision was developed not just to prevent further declines in species and habitats, but to try to ensure HS2 could be part of restoring our natural environment. Yet works have continued with scant regard for nature. As recently as December 2019 - during an official ‘pause’ in activity levied by the government - HS2 Ltd was forced to apologise for damaging a uniquely important Wildlife Trust-owned Nature Reserve.
It's not the first time natural places have been wrecked because of HS2 while decisions are still being made. It may not be the last. Given the evidence, it's time to stop and rethink.
Want to learn more? Read the full report here or download our summary report if you'd like a shorter overview.
HS2 Ltd has commented on our report, read our response on our website.