Throughout the progression of the HS2 project there has been a core focus on reducing the environmental impact to wildlife habitats and regional ecology. According to a report by the Wildlife Trusts, companies building the controversial rail line have underestimated these impacts due to Inconsistent mapping and modelling.
According to the report and its findings, the construction works to accommodate phase one have caused “irreparable damage to precious wildlife sites already”, thus calling for construction to be paused and for the government to require HS2 Ltd to re-evaluate the impact construction has on nature.
The Wildlife Trusts are issuing a plea for the next phases of construction to improve upon the environmental mitigation and compensation commitments, taking on board the lessons learned from the previous phase.
The Cheshire Wildlife Trust investigated the initial phase using HS2 Ltd.’s “own data where available and additional information to show the type and quality of each habitat.” Throughout this process, the trust found that “HS2 Ltd.’s mapping and assessment of existing nature along the route and found a catalogue of errors.”
"In addition to the catalogue of errors when assessing the pre-existing nature, this audit found that HS2 Ltd.’s metric is untested, out of date and fundamentally flawed," they said.
Findings for Phase one show “a minimum net loss of 4,367 NNL units (17.36% loss of the pre-construction biodiversity value in NNL Units). This compares to a net loss of 555 NNL units (2.60% loss of the pre-construction biodiversity value in NNL units), as calculated by HS2 Ltd.”
These damages to the local ecology of communities affected by the ongoing infrastructure project are sever, with concerns for the future of the project and the impacts on biodiversity.
The report supports this as it says:
“This vast infrastructure project is taking a wrecking-ball to wildlife and communities are in despair at losing the wild places — the woods, meadows and wetlands that they love — they will never get these back.”
Dr Rachel Giles from Cheshire Wildlife Trust and author of the report, gave her opinions on the found discrepancies and methodologies to analyse the impacts, saying:
"HS2 Ltd must stop using a deeply flawed method to calculate the value of nature affected by the construction of the route," she said. "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."
If this report is accurate in its claims, it is vital that plans for the upcoming phase of works to be recalculated, learning from the mistakes of the previous works and adapt working methods to ensure local wildlife habitats and ecology are protected.
HS2 has since responded to the trusts’ report, seeing a spokesperson say that the organisation “didn’t recognise the figures” or “believe them to be reliable.”
"The Wildlife Trusts have undertaken limited desk research and have not accessed huge areas of land for undertaking ecological survey, in contrast to the ecologists who have compiled HS2's data," the spokesperson said.
To read the report in full, click here.
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