High Speed Rail 2

High Speed Rail 2

160 wildlife sites are threatened along the proposed high speed rail route between London and Birmingham across seven different Wildlife Trust areas.

 

The impact of HS2 on local wildlife

High Speed 2 (HS2) is a new £56bn railway that will provide a high-speed link between London and Birmingham by 2026. Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is working hard to mitigate any impact on wildlife by this major infrastructure project.

From the beginning it has been clear that HS2 would have significant environmental impacts. Early on in the development of the scheme Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, along with Wildlife Trusts nationwide, expressed serious concerns to HS2 Ltd, the company set up to build and operate the railway, about the impact that the project would have on wildlife along the route. 

In Hertfordshire, the Trust’s Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve will be impacted, with disturbance to the nationally important wintering and breeding birds that use the site as a refuge in the wider landscape. There will be loss of habitat as well as the potential for death to wildfowl and bats from collisions with trains. Initial mitigation measures have been inappropriate and inadequate but since it was confirmed that the railway would be built, we have been working with HS2 Ltd to minimise these impacts.

Ecology Review Group

The Wildlife Trusts are represented on HS2’s Ecology Review Group. This group is working on a package of biodiversity measures that will partly mitigate the impact of HS2. A report from the group, called ‘No Net Loss’, is due to be published at the end of 2017. 

HS2 in Middlesex

A 3.6km viaduct is planned to carry the line from Newyears Green in Hillingdon, over the Colne Valley into Buckinghamshire, before it enters another tunnel through part of the Chilterns. The impacts on the landscape and wildlife are significant, even if much of this land will be restored once construction is due to finish in 2025.

Broadwater Lake

The HS2 route crosses the Mid-Colne Valley SSSI on a viaduct bisecting the Trust’s Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve. The 80-hectare site is renowned nationally 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. The original HS2 mitigation does not go far enough to reduce the impact of the viaduct and further measures are suggested in the Colne Valley Additional Mitigation Plan. Additionally there are possible plans to realign the River Colne, a valuable chalk river. If this goes ahead multiple species could be affected from fish, invertebrates and specialised plants to Daubenton’s bats that hunt along the river line.

HS2 route map

Additional Mitigation Plan

Many of the concerns relating to the Colne Valley were acknowledged by the High Speed Rail House of Commons’ Select Committee in Parliament during the process of enacting the HS2 Hybrid Bill. This committee backed the creation of a panel to lead the development and implementation of an ‘Additional Mitigation Plan’ to help protect the environment in this region. Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is a member of the Colne Valley Regional Park Panel, established in 2015, which consists of representatives from 15 organisations; including local authorities, government agencies, and environmental groups. London Wildlife Trust also sit on this panel. Work on the Additional Mitigation Plan (AMP) started in summer 2016, and a draft was published in early 2017 for public feedback. The AMP has since been finalised and published: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hs2-additional-mitigation-plan-for-colne-valley. The plan will be implemented with a £3m budget set aside by HS2 Ltd specifically for this purpose. This money is in addition to mitigation measures already proposed by HS2.

Included in the AMP is a set of area-specific projects aimed at meeting Colne Valley Regional Park objectives. General proposals include protecting important wildlife in the Valley such as bats, water voles and birds, improving viewpoints, better local engagement andnew recreational routes. For more information email CVRPPanel@aol.co.uk or visit colnevalleypark.org.uk

Enabling and construction works

Since Royal Assent was granted to HS2 in February 2017, work to prepare the ground for the first phase of the railway's construction has begun. Contractors have been appointed to undertake the 'enabling' and main construction works, with each allocated a section of the route. This means significant amounts of land have already begun to change in order to bore the tunnels and construct the operational infrastructure of HS2. While the Trust has been unable to stop the scheme, we believe our collective action has helped reduce some of the worst impacts of HS2.

Broadwater Lake

To date HS2 has carried out tree clearance and drilling on the reserve in order to perform extensive ground investigation.

Please be aware that Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve currently remains open as usual but the works taking place have created muddier than usual conditions at the site.

Harvil Road

At a site east of Harvil Road, south of Harefield, HS2's enabling works contractors, are clearing trees and vegetation ahead of essential gas pipeline diversion works required before construction of HS2 can begin. HS2 Ltd and their contractors have completed all necessary ecological surveys and inspections ahead of these clearance works. While the Trust has no regulatory remit or right of access to the construction site, we understand from HS2 that all works at the site are being undertaken in accordance with the HS2 Environmental Minimum Requirements and the Act of Parliament permitting construction and operations of HS2 Phase One. The gas pipeline works will be undertaken by Cadent Gas under its own permitted development rights and in compliance with HS2's Environmental Minimum Requirements.

With respect to protected species at the site east of Harvil Road, HS2 has confirmed the following:

Badgers
The site has been surveyed and while some signs of badger activity, including latrines (dung pits), were found on site, active badger setts have not been recorded and there are no active setts immediately adjacent to it;
Updated surveys will be undertaken as works continue to ensure all works are undertaken in accordance with the legal protection afforded to badgers.

Bats
As part of HS2's preparation for the start of works, the whole site has been surveyed, using a range of survey methods. No evidence of roosting bats has been found in the area that contractors are clearing;

All precautions are being taken to reduce any risk, including re-inspection by ecologists of trees with moderate or high potential to support roosting bats prior to felling. Should any bat roosts be identified then works in that location will cease and appropriate mitigation and licensing requirements followed;

HS2 Ltd will update their surveys as works continue to ensure all works are undertaken in accordance with law.

In addition, HS2 Ltd has confirmed there are no predicted impacts to Newyears Green Covert Ancient Woodland.

Our position

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust has objected to the HS2 route since it was first proposed. However, as the scheme developed we have worked to ensure that as best possible the ecological impacts are minimised and that in time, net gains for biodiversity can be secured. We have worked with our sister Wildlife Trusts to ensure these principles are embedded across the whole route.

While the Trust has been unable to stop the scheme, we believe that our collective action has helped to reduce some of the ecological impacts of HS2 and to improve the scheme, thereby improving mitigation measures. We maintain a commitment to pursuing measures to mitigate the impacts on wildlife from the construction of the railway, especially in and around the Colne Valley, although the legal recourse to prevent construction has now been exhausted. 

We acknowledge construction of HS2 will mean the loss of and damage to wildlife.

The Trust recognises that many people are angry and upset at the damage they are witnessing where works are underway. We urge these concerns to be allayed to HS2 directly and, if it is felt that legislation is being breached, contact the local police. If it is felt that best practice is not being carried out on the ground, make sure their local councillors and MPs are also informed. While the Trust has been assured by HS2 Ltd that all the appropriate and legal steps have been undertaken to avoid, reduce or mitigate for the impacts on wildlife, we acknowledge that the construction of HS2 will mean the unavoidable loss of and damage to wildlife habitats especially in the short-term.

We will be working with our sister Wildlife Trusts and others to help scrutinise the development of HS2 as it moves into construction, and highlight specific concerns over – and opportunities to improve – their ecological performance. As part of our role on the Colne Valley Regional Park Panel, we are in dialogue with HS2 and the relevant main works contractors to influence the design of the viaduct with the aim of further reducing wildlife impacts. 

How to contact HS2 Ltd

If anyone has concerns over the impact of HS2 construction works on wildlife, we would encourage you to contact the HS2 Helpdesk directly.

Email HS2enquiries@hs2.org.uk

Call 08081 434 434