High Speed 2 (HS2) Update: Royal Assent granted

A Greener Visions for HS2

The Government’s High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) has now been given the official go-ahead to proceed.

The first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham has now (23 February 2017) been given Royal Assent. Since 2010, when the project was first raised, The Wildlife Trusts nationally have campaigned against the proposed route because of the enormous impact that it will have on wildlife and important sites such as ancient woodland, Local Wildlife Sites and SSSI’s. Warwickshire Wildlife Trust strongly challenge HS2 Ltd to raise its ambition for the natural environment.

Construction of the line will now begin in the spring. The Wildlife Trusts will continue to engage with HS2 to maximise gains for biodiversity and the Trusts will be a member of the HS2-led Ecology Review Group that will help to monitor and ensure that the targets for replacing habitats are met.

At this stage HS2 Ltd has committed to secure ‘no net loss of biodiversity’ on a route wide basis, which at this time does not adequately address the impact on ancient woodland. Warwickshire Wildlife Trust believes that HS2 should be looking to set the benchmark for quality infrastructure projects around the world. The project is designed to put the UK at the forefront of modern transportation technology and net biodiversity enhancement, and so a key outcome of the project should be achieving ‘net gains for nature’ rather than simply ‘no net loss’ to biodiversity.

Put simply HS2 has a unique opportunity to deliver overall high quality biodiversity gains which could be integrated as part of the project. As the leading local environmental charity Warwickshire Wildlife Trust aims to build on its partnership work with the Local Nature Partnership, local authorities, parish councils and local landowners to secure the best outcomes possible for wildlife and people.

Through its vision of Living Landscapes Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has been working at a landscape scale since 2005. Living Landscapes aims to create bigger, better and more joined up areas for wildlife and people. This enables wildlife to adapt to climate change and become more resilient, whilst allowing people to have more direct interaction with the natural world resulting in improved mental and physical wellbeing.

Whilst HS2 will provide a physical barrier in some places for landscape scale connectivity, it also provides an opportunity to create new areas of habitat to link existing sites. The Wildlife Trusts developed our own Greener Vision which set out an ambitious vision for large-scale nature restoration along the route – creating and restoring large areas of habitat and providing new access to nature for people. Over the coming months Warwickshire Wildlife Trust will be working in partnership with local communities to realise this vision and to secure positive outcomes.