Two cheers for the Government’s decision to “take a fresh look” at HS2.

Two cheers for the Government’s decision to “take a fresh look” at HS2.

But plans remain in place for unacceptable levels of environmental impact in Warwickshire.

The High Speed Two (HS2) railway between London and Birmingham is having a significant impact on wildlife and wild places along the entire route, and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust continues to express deep concerns and opposition to HS2 Ltd's actions. We have already seen ecosystems permanently damaged, irreplaceable habitats including ancient woodlands destroyed and taxpayer's money spent on mitigation which is not sufficient to repair the ecological damage.

Last week Government announced that it will scrap HS2 Phase 2b, or the 'eastern leg', meaning that some wild spaces to the north now face a welcome reprieve. Cancelling this northern section of the huge transport project will save vast swathes of natural wild places and spare the rare birds and carbon-storing habitats that were threatened by the proposed development. However, the Government’s plan only involves scrapping the creation of the new HS2 line to the north of the East Midlands Parkway in Nottinghamshire. Which means that the new HS2 line proposed between Birmingham and the East Midlands Parkway will still go ahead. This section of HS2 Phase 2b cuts right through the Tame Valley Wetlands NIA in North Warwickshire, carving up Pooley Country Park and cutting straight across Kingsbury Water Park. These sites and the landscape they sit within are some of the most important wildlife habitats in the area. The HS2 footprint within the area is one of the largest of any point along the line as it not only includes a spur of the track but is also the location of a new HS2 maintenance yard.

The change of approach by Government demonstrates that alternatives to HS2 in its current, damaging form are possible. We continue to engage with HS2Ltd in Warwickshire and demand that the negative impacts of the project be limited and to ensure that the mitigation proposed will in time actually benefit wildlife.

Ian Jelley, Director of Living Landscapes at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust says:

“The Wildlife Trusts have long campaigned against HS2 – alongside thousands of others – because of the huge damage it will do to nature and communities along the route. Now the Integrated Rail Plan has made it clear that there are alternatives to HS2.

“We support the principle of sustainable transport, but along with other nature charities, we cannot back such an environmentally catastrophic project. The first phase of the route is already under construction and we’re witnessing the shocking reality for affected communities and the much-loved and wildlife rich countryside that has been destroyed around them. The remaining section of Phase 2b will still go ahead in a critical area for our wildlife in Warwickshire and we urge the Government and HS2 to Stop and Rethink the impact that it is having to our wildlife when we are already facing a climate and ecological crisis."

In 2019 The Wildlife Trusts, along with the Woodland Trust, RSPB and Chilterns Society, published an evidenced report, ‘What’s the damage? Why HS2 will cost nature too much. It was the first, and only, comprehensive and whole-route review of HS2’s impact to be published. It highlighted the lack of detailed assessment at the time and showed HS2 Ltd’s proposed mitigation and compensation for nature was wholly inadequate. 

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust continues to call on HS2 Ltd to publish clear and detailed plans on how the scheme will meet HS2 Ltd’s obligations to achieve ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity along the whole route, and further, a net gain for wildlife and nature.