‘Fundamental flaws’ in HS2 nature assessments, says Wildlife Trusts

Conservation charity The Wildlife Trusts has released a new report today, detailing how nature assessments made by HS2 Ltd have ‘fundamental flaws.’

According to this, HS2 Ltd has undervalued natural habitats and underestimated the impact the railway’s construction will have on biodiversity.

Watercourses, ponds and trees have been missed out of data, while trees and species-rich hedgerows, providing berries, shelter and nesting places for wildlife, have been given lower nature values than they should have.

black and white bird on black wooden signage

Dr Rachel Giles, evidence and planning manager at Cheshire Wildlife Trust and author of the report, said: ‘We’ve been shocked by the errors and discrepancies that our audit revealed. HS2 Ltd must stop using a deeply flawed method to calculate the value of nature affected by the construction of the route. It is astonishing that a flagship infrastructure project is able to use a metric which is untested and not fit for purpose.

‘HS2 Ltd should urgently recalculate the total loss to nature, by re-evaluating existing biodiversity along the entire route whilst there is still time to change the scheme’s design and delivery.’

Phase 1 of the high speed rail route, covering 140 miles between London and West Midlands, is thought to cause at least 7.9 times more nature loss than calculated by HS2 Ltd.

Phase 2a of the track will result in 3.6 times more biodiversity loss, despite HS2 Ltd’s commitment to Not Net Loss of biodiversity and to preserve important nature areas and habitats.

Simultaneously, the company has been overvaluing its nature regeneration measures, such as new trees and hedgerows, says The Wildlife Trusts.

The report suggests HS2 Ltd will not sufficiently make up for the damage caused by Phase 1 and 2a of the scheme and will not deliver a biodiversity net gain.

HS2 Ltd responded to the report on Twitter, calling HS2 the ‘largest single environmental project in the UK’. The company continued: ‘Today’s claims by @WildlifeTrusts are incorrect and based on unreliable data from limited desk research. #HS2’s data is independently verified, accurate and reliable from extensive, detailed surveys by expert ecologists out in the field, on huge areas of land.’

The Wildlife Trusts says the company should re-map existing habitats and apply more accurate nature values to habitats, should use up to date and proven methodology, and should pause construction until the findings are assessed.

The charity is also calling for the government to respond to its findings while there is still time to make changes which protect nature and ensures a minimum 10% biodiversity net gain.

Photo by Ethan Wilkinson


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