‘Green corridor’ on the way as HS2 looks to revitalise local environments

New wildlife habitats, native woodlands, and open community spaces are amongst the proposals from HS2 in an effort to help integrate the high-speed line into its surrounding landscape and environment.

Along the vast 216km-long Phase 1 route from London to the north of England, the plans will include the planting of seven million new trees and shrubs, and over 33 square kilometres of new and existing wildlife habitat – all with potential to support community projects and develop attractive areas surrounding public parks, open spaces, and nature reserves.

The proposals— funded by part of a £2m extension to the now £7m-strong HS2 Woodland Fund— will span over the size of 4,600 football pitches, and encourages local people and organisations to get involved in the process.

This week RTM reported that HS2 announced “significant improvements” to its controls environment since a recent redundancy payout fiasco. Today HS2 set out key milestones for the financial year ahead, including defined goals around rolling stock procurement, the Phase 1 business case, and environmental planning.

From September this year, the company will consult on a draft environmental statement for the Phase 2b route which will propose how to avoid, reduce or manage environmental impacts – spanning everything from air quality to wildlife protection.

Part of the ‘green corridor’ plans involve tailor-made homes for wildlife, ranging from bat houses to 226 new ponds for great crested newts and other amphibians. Around 90% of materials used for earthworks and landscaping will also be re-used.

HS2’s head of environmental construction for Area North, Anthony Coumbe, wrote about its environmental plans in the latest edition of RTM (June/July), which will be hitting desks today.

But the Woodland Trust has said that the plans to create the corridor are “nothing more than greenwash nonsense,” arguing that more than 40 hectares of rare ancient woodland will be destroyed by HS2.

As much as 98% of ancient woods and habitats are at risk, argued Luci Ryan, ecologist at the Woodland Trust.

“None of this new planting will replace the 30ha of ancient woodland destroyed on Phase 1, and the £2m they are making available on Phase 2a as part of the Woodland Fund will not replace the 10.2ha of ancient woodland they are destroying there. This is like smashing a Ming vase and replacing it with bargain basement crockery,” added Ryan.

But Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2, said the proposals will be “leaving behind a network of new wildlife habitats, woodlands, and community spaces,” and will create a lasting legacy along the route.

He commented: “We’ve already got to work by supporting a range of community projects and creating a series of new habitats, including planting over 230,000 trees so far. We’ll be calling on local people and organisations to get involved as the ‘green corridor’ starts to take shape.”

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Image credit: HS2


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