Charity the Cheshire Wildlife Trust say they think HS2 planners have vastly underestimated the new rail line's possible impact on the county's wildlife.
“Although the objectives of HS2 may be worthy, the reality on the ground is quite different,” said Rachel Giles, Evidence and Planning Manager at Cheshire Wildlife Trust. “We believe that in the rush to develop the scheme HS2 Ltd. has made a catalogue of errors vastly underestimating the impact to the natural environment.”
Cheshire Wildlife Trust have scrutinised the plans in depth and have discovered that, far from achieving no net loss of biodiversity locally, as HS2 Ltd. have stated, in fact the impact on local wildlife will be severe.
“There is simply not enough habitat creation to compensate for the destruction of vast swathes of countryside and the knock on effects on the local wildlife which is already struggling to survive,” explained Rachel. “The shortfalls are breath-taking; HS2 Ltd will need to plant an additional 8.3km of hedgerows, dig a further 28 ponds and create an additional 86.9ha of wildlife habitat if they are going to come close to achieving their objectives.”
Cheshire Wildlife Trust believe that HS2 in south Cheshire will hit farmland species the hardest; birds such as yellow wagtail, skylark and tree sparrow are particularly vulnerable. Mammals such as the water vole and several bat species will struggle to recover once their habitats are disrupted or lost. These farmland species are already in rapid decline as their habitats have either become fragmented in recent years by changing land-use or lost altogether to development.
Their concerns are based around the loss of a core site from the Meres and Mosses Nature Improvement Area and the loss of two potential ancient woodlands which would be impossible to off-set through creating new wildlife areas. The development could also spell the end of the globally endangered white-clawed crayfish population locally should a pollution event happen at the site.
“The current plans for Phase 2a show that High Speed Rail is set to push our local wildlife right to the edge as it severs the wildlife corridors and breeding sites used by species to move through the landscape to feed and rear young,” said Rachel. “We have made several recommendations in our report and we are now calling on HS2 Ltd to live up to their promises and give wildlife a fighting chance by creating the extra areas of habitat that are needed to offset the losses.”