HS2 threatens wildlife

Proposals for a London-Birmingham high speed rail link will rip through 160 wildlife sites...

The current proposals for a high speed rail link between London and the West Midlands fall far short of the mark where wildlife is concerned, The Wildlife Trusts believe. The route in its current form would carve up 160 Wildlife Sites, places that have been identified as being of high ecological value.

Seven different Wildlife Trust areas are affected by the proposals. In Hertfordshire and Middlesex, the route will cross the Mid-Colne Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), on a viaduct bisecting our Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve. The 80 hectare site is renowned internationally for the diversity of breeding wetland birds and the numbers of wintering waterbirds such as gadwall, shoveler and great crested grebe, and summer moult gatherings of tufted duck.

Rare bats threatened

In neighbouring Buckinghamshire many more Wildlife Sites are affected, and in some cases rare and protected wildlife. It has been known for some time that Bechstein’s bats use the area that the proposed High Speed Rail route is likely to cut through in the county. According to the Bat Conservation Trust there are just 1,500 Bechstein’s left in the UK, making them one of our rarest mammals. Recently a national four-year survey found them in woodlands either side of the proposed route. This indicates the area supports a breeding colony of these bats. Bechstein’s bats are particularly susceptible to the impact of barriers through the areas they use.

Does this mean HS2 will be stopped?

Bats are a protected species, but projects which affect them can go ahead if a number of tests are passed. These include showing there is no suitable alternative to the project, that the damage from the proposal will not have a major effect on the bats and their distribution, and that the project is of major importance. The Wildlife Trusts believe that the current HS2 proposals have a long way to go before they pass these tests.

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What’s happening about it?

The Right Lines Charter, published in April, has been agreed between an alliance of powerful organisations including The Wildlife Trusts, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, RSPB, The Woodland Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, to hold the government to account on HS2. The alliance believes government proposals currently fall far short of the charter. The Wildlife Trusts are continuing to put pressure on the government.

What you can do

• Write to your MP today and make the case for wildlife affected by the proposed HS2 route.

What's on

Explore College Lake and Aldbury Nowers

Sunday 28 August

Visit College Lake Nature Reserve to see wildflowers, butterflies and dragonflies. Entry �2. Meet 10.30am in visitor centre car park off B488 Tring to Ivinghoe Road. Bring picnic lunch or there is nearby garden centre for refreshments. Walk distance: 2 miles. Optional afternoon at Aldbury Nowers Nature Reserve, off Northfield Road. Donation: �2

To visit any of our nature reserves or to find out more about our work, contact us on 01727 858901, email info@hmwt.org or visit www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk