The HS2 Issue
High Speed 2 Railway (HS2) is a development proposal to run trains up to 225mph from London to the north of England.
The project is split in to two Phases – each needs to be approved by Government in two separate ‘Hybrid Bills’. The Phase 1 Hybrid Bill has now passed all stages of parliment and received 'Royal Assent'. This means that construction will begin this year with HS2's aim to open the route by 2026. Phase 2, if approved would be constructed by 2033 and is split into two sub-phases. 2a is planned from Birmingham to Crew and phase 2b would involve completing the Western leg from Crewe to Manchester and constructing the eastern leg through South Yorkshire up to Leeds.
HS2 in South Yorkshire
New reports published by HS2 on 7th July have recommended that the HS2 proposed route in South Yorkshire should be changed. The suggestion now is that the main HS2 route should be moved eastwards and not stop at Meadowhall. In addition, some HS2 trains will do a loop into along the existing track through Chesterfield and into the Sheffield Midlands station and re-join the HS2 track further north.
A consultation is was open until 9th March on these proposals. Our response can be found as a download below.
A map of the new suggested route thorough Sheffield and Rotherham and the likely impact on local sites of importance for wildlife is above.
The new proposed main line is likely to directly impact the following important sites for wildlife:
|Nor Wood and Locks||Local Wildlife Site and Ancient Woodland – including the nationally scarce Large-leaved Lime and True Fox-sedge|
|Nickerwoods and Ponds||Local Wildlife Site and Ancient Woodland – woodland and water features|
|King’s Pond Plantation||Local Wildlife Site – a mixed woodland and large pond|
|Firsby Reservoir||Local Wildlife Site and Local Nature Reserve – noted for its bird interest including Gadwall and Willow Tit|
|Hooton Cliff||Local Wildlife Site and Ancient Woodland – a calcareous site with the nationally scarce Large-leaved lime|
|Foers Wood||Local Wildlife Site wet woodland noted for its bat species|
If you have any information on these sites, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or 0114 2634335
• We recognise that the proposed high speed link could potentially benefit local people and the jobs market, and we are generally supportive of sustainable transport schemes: they are an important part of our necessary transition to a low carbon economy. But we believe this must not be achieved at the expense of the natural environment.
The Wildlife Trusts are concerned about the impact HS2 will have on the landscapes and habitats and the damage it will cause to wildlife and ecosystems along the proposed route.
• Currently we cannot see any evidence of a net gain for nature from this proposal and so we would oppose this development.
• As it stands, we believe that the approach adopted by the Department for Transport / HS2 Ltd will result in an unacceptable level of loss and damage to existing wildlife assets as well as the loss of opportunities to re-connect and create new ecological networks.
• The gradual loss and erosion of sites adds up over time to a significant loss in habitat and green space to the area. High speed railways are potentially a much bigger barrier to wildlife than existing UK railways, as the tracks are wider and more sterile, sometimes lined with security fencing.
• We are also concerned about the proposed loss of local ancient woodlands. Ancient woodland sites are irreplaceable – once lost they are lost forever. Destruction is irreversible: by definition, ancient woodland soils, wildlife, and historical meaning cannot be compensated for by mitigation techniques.
• However, if HS2 is to go ahead, we would like to work with partners to mitigate the impacts and maximise the compensation opportunities for wildlife (see below)
What we have done and will do:
1. Worked with other potentially affected Wildlife Trusts and partner organisations along the route to share information and good practice (such as ecological principles and practices that can be applied to any design and delivery of the project) as appropriate
2. Gathered evidence and information on potentially affected sites
3. Responded to the 2013 HS2 Phase 2 consultation - please click here to read - and the 2016/17 consultation on the revised route for South Yorkshire.
4. Continue to promote and press for the Wildlife Trusts’ Report ‘A Greener Vision for HS2’ that identifies potential areas for habitat creation should the railway go ahead http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/HS2reports
5. Comment on any forthcoming Environment Statements and Environmental Impacts Assessments
6. Stand up for nature and object vocally if the environmental impacts of the proposals are ignored or misrepresented and, in turn, highlight positive gains resulting from any adjustments and improvements made by HS2 Ltd.
7. Engage with HS2 Ltd/Defra, Local Authorities, statutory agencies, other Wildlife Trusts and other partners on any proposals for avoidance, mitigation, compensation, enhancement and long-term management.
8. Work with other Wildlife Trusts to press HS2 Ltd to make decisions based on the best available environmental evidence and to put forward a scheme which is in line with the Natural Environment White Paper’s ambition to restore our natural environment – a net gain for nature.
What you can do:
• Keep an eye on the HS2 Ltd website for more information. Go to: http://www.hs2.org.uk
• Tell your local MP what you think, write to them with your concerns. Let us know if you do and what response you received.
• If you have any concerns or questions about the proposals or consultations, do contact us via 0114 2634335 or email@example.com Again, we would love you to tell us your views.
Mitigation and compensation:
Should the proposed route go ahead, then steps must be taken to mitigate and compensate for environmental damage and losses following the principles of requiring a ‘net gain’ for biodiversity as clearly set out in paragraph 9 of the National Planning Policy Framework “pursuing sustainable development involves seeking positive improvements in the quality of the built, natural and historic environment…including…moving from a net loss of biodiversity to achieving net gains for nature…”.
Having considered the latest proposals, together with the supporting documentation, we have identified the following improvements that we wish the Government and HS2 Ltd to make:
• To carefully analyse the impacts and effects of the route on biodiversity. So far discussions about the environmental case for HS2 have not properly considered this aspect.
• To undertake a comparative assessment of base line ecological data to inform the HS2 route selection and so avoid key habitats wherever possible;
• To undertake and make available as part of the consultation a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the route. Until this has happened it is not possible to understand the full impact of the route on biodiversity, including the cumulative impact of habitat loss and fragmentation. This has not been made available so far and would be expected to have been provided prior to consultation by any other developer.
• To include Local Wildlife Sites in the Sustainability Statement and Appendices impact analysis.
• To commit to ensure that sufficient funds are made available to mitigate or compensate the adverse effects of the route on biodiversity and for long-term management/maintenance.
• To commit to a mitigation package that results in a ‘net gain for nature’ as stated in the Government’s own National Planning Policy Framework. A position of ‘no net loss’ is not sufficient (we are disappointed by the Government’s response to this – see above).
One way of achieving this would be for the Government to actively commit to the implementation of the Wildlife Trusts’ A Greener Vision for HS2. This vision is based on the Wildlife Trusts own research shows that investment in green infrastructure, habitat restoration and creation as part of HS2 is both affordable (within the scale of the overall budget for the project) and cost-effective.
To demonstrate this the Wildlife Trusts affected by Phase 1 and 2 of HS2 have identified and mapped habitat creation opportunities along the route. These areas were subsequently refined to identify the areas where the opportunity for nature restoration is greatest and most cost-effective to devise a strategic corridor (or stepping stones) of habitat that would reconnect fragmented habitats and strengthen local ecological networks.
It shows how a ribbon of natural areas, wild havens, green bridges and cycle ways could be created along the corridor of the HS2 route. Initial costings suggest that environmental restoration on this scale could be achieved with less than 1% of HS2’s overall budget of £42bn and a Cost Benefit Analysis undertaken by researchers at Newcastle University show that the benefits of restoring nature and providing access will outweigh the costs.
In 2014, the Environmental Audit Committee produced a report on HS2. The report contained a number of recommendations that we supported but unfortunately the government rejected most of these. For example:
a) EAC Report on Biodiversity Loss “On HS2, the Government should aim higher than simply striving for no net biodiversity loss” and “The Government has not been able to establish a full environmental baseline against which the aim of ‘no net biodiversity loss’ can be assessed. HS2 Ltd must carry out outstanding environmental surveys as soon as possible”. (Para 12, page 8 and Para 22, page 12. Para 86, page 38)
Disappointingly, the Government has rejected the Committee's call for a more ambitious objective than 'no net loss' stating that their current approach is 'appropriate'.
b) The EAC report recommends that HS2 has a separate ring-fenced environmental budget to ensure that nature restoration along the line can be maintained and enhanced over time.
This was rejected by the Government
c) The EAC report states that not all of the route has been surveyed for protected species, and where surveys have not taken place, HS2 Ltd has relied on informed guesswork.
The Government says they "will continue to liaise closely with Natural England and local wildlife trusts as appropriate as part of the process of improving our evidence base as the project develops."
Evidence and references:
Updated March 2017