Dear Prime Minister: time to rethink HS2

The scale of destruction HS2 will cause to wildlife is revealed

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Ecosystems permanently damaged. Irreplaceable habitats destroyed. Taxpayer's money spent on restoration wasted. Species extinctions at a local level. 

This could be nature's fate if the current plans for HS2 continue. 

In the most comprehensive assessment to date, our new report reveals the sheer scale of the potential damage that HS2 could cause.  

The figures are grim.

The reality could be even worse.

Given the evidence of the impacts on nature, now is the time to rethink how HS2 is being done.

This is serious, so we are taking our message straight to the top. Join us in calling on the Prime Minister to stop and rethink the entire project - while there is still time. 

Please add your name our open letter to Boris Johnson today!

Get the facts and read more about the impacts >>

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: 

  • 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


Given the escalating risks to nature, it's time to stop and rethink HS2. Add your name to our letter to the Prime Minister: 

Dear Prime Minister: Stop and Rethink HS2

I write to bring to your attention a new report from The Wildlife Trusts which shows that the risks to nature from HS2 are escalating. The report shows that HS2 may even lead to local species extinctions across the route. Because you have often spoken of your concerns for the climate and our wildlife, I know you will be as shocked as I am to learn this - and will want to stop it from happening.

In its current form, the deep cut HS2 will make across the length of England could stop the plan for nature’s recovery in its tracks, undermining your manifesto commitment to develop the most ambitious environmental programme on earth. If the proposals to mitigate the damage don’t change dramatically, the scar will never heal - and our efforts to tackle the worsening biodiversity and climate crisis will be set back.

Development must leave nature in a better state. The evidence shows that if allowed to continue unchanged, HS2 will instead wreak havoc on vulnerable wildlife and permanently damage irreplaceable habitats including ancient woodlands, wetlands and meadows.  Ecosystems that have already been restored using public money will also be devastated.

The environmental costs are clearly mounting, so I urge you to now stop and rethink this project.

Please use your power as Prime Minister to ensure the impact on the natural environment is properly assessed and the proposals are fully reviewed. Ongoing works must be halted immediately.

Nature’s recovery is in your hands.

Yours, in hope,

Keep in touch with your Wildlife Trust!

We’d love to keep in contact with you about the work of The Wildlife Trusts and other ways that you can get involved with your local Wildlife Trust. By consenting, your contact details will be sent to your local Wildlife Trust - choose from the boxes below. 

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