9th Dec, 2016

Nature charity slams plans to destroy a nature reserve to make way for HS2

Solihull Editorial 29th Mar, 2016 Updated: 24th Oct, 2016

A NATURE charity has hit out at plans to destroy a nature reserve to make way for High Speed Rail 2 (HS2).

The Woodland Trust has slammed proposals for the new route between London and Birmingham to cut through Park Hall Nature Reserve, near Castle Bromwich, and is calling on the Government and HS2 Ltd. – the company behind the plans – to go back to the drawing board.

If the plans are given the go-ahead, Park Hall Nature Reserve would be partly destroyed by the route itself and partly destroyed by re-routed power cables – destroying at least 80 per cent, and at the worst 95 per cent, of the ancient site.

The plans would destroy vital habitats for a range of protected an important species, including otters, bats, water vole, kingfishers and great crested newts.

The Woodland Trust claims the plans include ‘error after error’ and ‘flawed calculations’ in an attempt to justify the loss and damage to 64 woodlands along the route.

HS2 Ltd., pledges there will be ‘no net loss of biodiversity’ if woods are lost or damaged in the building of the line, as they will aspire to plant more trees and relocate soil from the woodland to another area.

But the charity instead argues it is impossible to mitigate losses to irreplaceable ancient woodlands.

Appearing in front of the HS2 Select Committee – a group of MPs discussing the HS2 proposals – the Trust also argued if the plans were given the green light, it could set a ‘dangerous precedent’ across the country for the way ancient woodland is treated in future planning decisions.

At a meeting earlier this month, the select committee said a third party would be brought in to review how HS2 Ltd. will measure the ‘net loss’ to woodlands along the route, and pledged to formalise the developer’s promise to plant trees.

Austin Brady, Director of Conservation at the Woodland Trust said: “Ancient woodland is an irreplaceable habitat and its loss should always be avoided.

“Although it’s good to see the Committee’s recognition of the need to reassess HS2 Ltd’s flawed ‘no net loss’ calculations, much of the remaining corner cutting by HS2 Ltd in relation to ancient woodland has been ignored.”

Arguing that more needs to be done to protect vital habitats and ensure the new train line does not cause additional damage to woodlands, Mr Brady added: “We want to see these shortcomings addressed during the forthcoming parliamentary stages.”

The HS2 Bill is currently being considered by the House of Lords.

Those directly affected by the proposals can present their objections to the Lords until Monday, April 18 at 5pm.

Visit www.parliament.uk to receive a Petitioning Kit.