HS2 Phase 2a will destroy the heart of a Defra-funded Nature Improvement Area says Cheshire Wildlife Trust

Cheshire Wildlife Trust believes the impact on wildlife and wild places is being severely underestimated by HS2 Ltd. The level of proposed mitigation and compensation is simply not good enough if the Government is to keep its promises on the environment.

The Hybrid Bill required to construct Phase 2a of HS2 – the 36-mile route from the West Midlands to Crewe expected to be operational in 2027 – had its Second Reading in the House of Commons yesterday (30/1/18).

The Trust believes that the Environmental Statement – published in July 2017 to accompany the Hybrid Bill documents – is incomplete and offers an inaccurate picture of the likely impacts. This is a repetition of the inadequacies of the statement produced for Phase 1 and is a cause for grave concern. If the Environmental Statement is inaccurate it has repercussions for the mitigation measures and funding. Phase 2a of HS2 affects important wildlife sites and, based on the information provided in the Environmental Statement, the proposed compensatory habitat is insufficient to address the damage.

Oak tree in path of HS2

Oak tree in path of HS2

In Cheshire, the route will result in the loss of the majority of a 100 hectare wildlife site - Randilow and Bunker Hill Local Wildlife Site - which forms an integral part of the Meres and Mosses Nature Improvement Area (NIA). This area received £568,470 from Defra between 2012 and 2015 to create joined up and resilient ecological networks on a large, landscape scale. Cheshire and Shropshire Wildlife Trusts (and others) have continued the work since that time. It is, therefore, extremely disappointing that HS2 has failed to acknowledge or address the impact that the loss of this site will have.

HS2 Ltd’s environmental policy states a commitment to ‘developing an exemplar project, and to limiting negative impacts through design, mitigation and by challenging industry standards whilst seeking environmental enhancements’. The policy also states that ‘habitat creation is required to fulfil the objective of no net loss of biodiversity as far as practicable in the local area as well as to ensure that populations of protected and notable species are maintained’.

“Whilst we support this position we believe that currently HS2 Ltd. fall far short of achieving their objectives,” said Rachel Giles, Evidence and Planning Manager at Cheshire Wildlife Trust. “We are particularly concerned that the short time frame in which the Environmental Statement has been prepared has led to a catalogue of serious mistakes and unjustifiable assumptions based on incorrect, incomplete or missing information.

“Our main concerns relate to the highly misleading manner in which residual impacts have been inaccurately portrayed or omitted. This is partly due to a failure to acknowledge incomplete/missing data and the gross inaccuracies in the calculated areas of impacted habitats. There is a shortfall of approximately 8.3km hedgerows, 28 ponds and 86.9ha of compensatory habitat in the local area meaning that residual impacts on protected and notable species are not being adequately addressed. This failure to either acknowledge or address these regional scale impacts will result in a loss of the majority of a 100 hectare area of the Meres and Mosses Nature Improvement Area designated in 2012 to ‘create joined up and resilient ecological networks at a landscape scale’.

“We are now calling on HS2 Ltd to up their game and do the right thing and commit to creating more high value wildlife habitat close to the new railway – just as they said they would.”