High Speed 2

High Speed 2

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

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. 

The Trust’s Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve in Middlesex 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 a 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

HS2 Route

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 and new 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 investigations.

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

Update: 25 March 2015

Government fails to make economic case for HS2

"We do not believe that the government has shown that HS2 is the best way of stimulating growth in the country." This is one of the conclusions in the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report published today.

The report sets out in detail many concerns with the HS2 project, including the government's failure to examine alternative improvements to the UK's railway infrastructure.

Hert and Middlesex Wildlife Trust remains committed to achieving net gain for the environment, not HS2 Ltd's intended 'no net loss' approach, if the project goes ahead.

The conclusions and recommendations of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report on HS2.

Update: 15 January 2015

Meeting with Nick Hurd MP and HS2 Select Committee

Trust Chief Executive Lesley Davies, Chairman Mike Master and Head of Living Landscapes Tom Day met Nick Hurd MP and members of the HS2 Select Committee in Hillingdon on Thursday. They discussed the potential impact of HS2 on wintering birds at Broadwater Lake and the wider Colne Valley and the environmental implications to the Mid Colne SSSI area. The meeting took place during a site visit by Committee members to key areas in the Colne Valley affected by HS2 plans as part of the ongoing consultation process.

Update: 21 November 2014

Meeting with Nick Hurd MP

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust's Chairman Mike Master and Head of Living Landscapes Tom Day met with Nick Hurd MP yesterday, to highlight the impact HS2 will have on wildlife in the Colne Valley. The meeting was a good opportunity for the Trust to highlight the environmental mitigation measures proposed by HS2 Ltd, which have been shown to be inadequate.

Update: 26 May 2014

Wildlife Trusts petition Parliament over HS2 concerns

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust has submitted a petition to Parliament against the HS2 Hybrid Bill. Three other Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts have also made submissions. More than 1,900 separate petitions have been raised by concerned individuals and organisations.

Read more here

Update: 7 April 2014

Environmental Audit Committee: government must aim higher

MPs sitting on the committee that examines the environmental credentials of government policy have said ministers should aim higher than the objective of no net biodiversity loss for the HS2 project.

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust welcomes their report, published today (7 April), which also recommends:

  • That HS2 Ltd carry out more environmental surveys - 40% of the route has yet to be examined
  • That government should reconsider its requirement for biodiversity compensation to be provided directly alongside the HS2 route where there are better opportunities further afield
  • That there should be a ring-fenced environmental budget

Environmental Audit Committee full report 

Reaction from The Wildlife Trusts' England Director, Steve Trotter

Update: 26 February 2014

HS2 is failing nature in the Colne Valley

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust says that the HS2 project looks set to fail nature in the Colne Valley, as the consultation on the Environmental Statement closes this week.

The statement is supposed to assess the environmental impact of the first phase of the high speed route between London and the west Midlands, but the Wildlife Trust has found that it is not fit for purpose.

Read our full reaction here.

Update: 23 January 2014

Consultation deadline changes again

Responses to the Environmental Statement consultation for Phase 1 of HS2 are now due in on Thursday 27 February by 11.59pm. Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is continuing to work on its response to the consultation, assessing the ecological impact of the proposals on Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve and the wider Colne Valley.

Update: 22 January 2014

Legal challenge to Phase 1 dismissed by Supreme Court

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is very disappointed at the Supreme Court's rejection of a legal challenge to Phase 1 of HS2.

The case brought by HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), Heathrow Hub campaigners and local councils was focussed on government's failure to carry out a proper environmental assessment before deciding on the route of the line.

David Elvin QC, appearing for HS2AA, said the government had failed to consult as widely as it had promised and to consider alternatives to its preferred scheme, urging the judges to overturn an Appeal Court majority upholding the project.

However, the court rejected his application for a declaration that government transport chiefs had breached an EU directive by failing to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). Read The Wildlife Trusts' response

Update: 16 January 2014

Consultation deadline extended due to 'missing pages'

The deadline for consultation responses to the Environmental Statement for Phase 1 of HS2 has been extended by 17 days, after hundreds of pages of information were left out and errors were found in the document. The original deadline was 24 January 2014.

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is working on its response to the consultation, assessing the ecological impact of the proposals on Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve and the wider Colne Valley.

Update: 12 December 2013

Supreme Court judgement expected in New Year

The Supreme Court has indicated that judgement in the Judicial Review of the decision to take forward HS2 without undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) will be given in the New Year, probably after 13 January 2014.

The case, which was heard by seven justices of the Supreme Court on 15 and 16 October, is a complex one.

Matt Jackson, Head of Strategy and Conservation at Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, commented: "The Wildlife Trusts have been calling for the Strategic Environmental Assessment ever since the first HS2 proposals were put forward. We hope the Supreme Court will agree with us and HS2 Action Alliance [the organisation bringing the case to the Supreme Court], so that HS2 Ltd carries out a proper environmental assessment that includes real alternatives to the current HS2 proposals."

If an SEA had been undertaken, planners would have been aware of key wildlife sites that would be affected by the proposed high speed railway before a preferred route was chosen. 

At the Appeal Court hearing on 24 July one of the three Court of Appeal judges, Lord Justice Sullivan, agreed with HS2 Action Alliance that an SEA should have been done.

He stated: “If, as I have concluded, an SEA is required and there has not been substantial compliance with the SEAD [EU environmental law], it would be difficult to think of a more egregious breach of the Directive given the scale of the HS2 project and the likely extent of its effects on the environment.”

The consultation examining the environmental impact of the preferred route of HS2 is open until 24 January 2014.

Update: 25 November 2013

Hybrid bill and Environmental Statement published

A hybrid bill (a bill affecting both the general public and private interests) was deposited with Parliament on 25th November for its first reading. The ‘High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill’ would serve to secure the powers to construct and maintain Phase One of the project. If approved by Parliament, it will determine precisely where HS2 will run, and what works will be undertaken to minimise its impact on the natural environment. The bill is currently supported by the three major political parties.

An Environmental Statement (numbering almost 50,000 pages) has been published alongside the hybrid bill. The Environmental Statement sets out where the government thinks there will be significant impacts from the proposals on the local environment, and how they propose to compensate for this impact.

Individuals and groups affected by phase one of HS2, and communities living along the route, only have until 24th January 2014 to respond to the government’s consultation on the Environmental Statement.

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust will be responding to this consultation, assessing to the best of our ability in the available time the ecological impact of the proposals on Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve, the SSSI, and the wider Colne Valley.

A Parliamentary Select Committee will in due course be established to consider concerns about the hybrid bill. People and groups affected by the bill will have an opportunity to ‘petition’ the bill following its Second Reading – ie. to raise objections to provisions of the bill and recommend amendments. Although it is a separate process, any issues of contention should also be raised in the Environmental Statement consultation.

In the meantime, we are still waiting for the Supreme Court ruling on the Government’s decision not to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) during the consultation process on phase one of HS2. The SEA would have considered alternatives to HS2 and the environmental implications of those alternatives.

Update: 2 October 2013

HS2 battle in the Supreme Court on 15 October

A split decision on the appeals brought against the Department for Transport’s decision to progress with HS2, means the environmental case brought by HS2 Action Alliance will be heard by Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger with four other Justices of the Privy Council on 15 and 16 October.

HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) is arguing that the government should have conducted a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the proposed high speed line, and was in breach of the SEA Directive.

At the Appeal Court hearing on 24 July, one of the three Court of Appeal judges, Lord Justice Sullivan, agreed with HS2AA that an SEA should have been done.

He stated: “If, as I have concluded, an SEA is required and there has not been substantial compliance with the SEAD [EU environmental law], it would be difficult to think of a more egregious breach of the Directive given the scale of the HS2 project and the likely extent of its effects on the environment.”

Update: 25 July 2013

Wildlife Trust: HS2 is failing the natural environment

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust says the true impact of the proposed High Speed Rail link (HS2) in the Colne Valley remains unclear, despite government producing a 3,000 page draft Environmental Statement for phase one of the project.

Update: 16 July 2013

Our responses to the Draft Environment Statement and Design Refinements consultations.

Update: 16 May 2013

Draft Environmental Statement lacks detail

The true impact of the proposed High Speed Rail link remains unclear, despite the government publishing a 3,000 page Draft Environmental Statement for Phase One of the project.

The draft statement, which assesses the impact of the first phase of the route between London and the West Midlands, was published today but the government admitted that it cannot yet fully identify the ecological effects of the project as survey work is still not yet complete.

The Wildlife Trusts’ initial analysis suggested that more than 360 important wildlife sites are at risk along the whole route. This includes four Wildlife Trust reserves, 10 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), more than 50 ancient woodlands and numerous local wildlife sites in the first phase alone. It is critical that government comes up with a compelling and ambitious vision for how the project will benefit nature and people.

A public consultation on the Draft Environmental Statement runs for just eight weeks until Thursday 11 July.

The National Audit Office has published a report today stating that it has "reservations" about how the planned high-speed rail link would deliver growth and jobs.

Update: 15 March 2013

Appeal to be lodged against HS2 judgement

The results of the five Judicial Reviews on phase 1 of HS2, which were heard in the High Court in December, were announced on Friday 15 March 2013.

We are very disappointed that the High Court has sided with the Government in ruling that the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive does not apply to HS2. The High Court has also rejected the Government’s claim that it had, in practice, complied with the requirements of the SEA. This leaves an opportunity to appeal against the judgement.

HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), the organisation which led the Judicial Review claiming the Government had acted unlawfully by not carrying out the SEA, will appeal against this judgement.

Supported by several Wildlife Trusts, HS2AA had set out environmental grounds challenging the lawfulness of the Government’s decision on phase one of HS2. The submission focussed on how, in HS2AA’s view, the Government had acted unlawfully in not complying with Strategic Environmental Assessment regulations, and ignored obligations under the Habitats Directive to carry out impact assessments on protected species and habitats. We believe the Government had tried to side-step a vital process for ensuring that decisions that affect the environment are sound.

The very important Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) process is one that, under European Union law, has to be applied to large-scale plans. SEA ensures decision-makers are fully aware of the environmental consequences of their decisions, and have thought through possible alternatives. The key aspect of an SEA is that there has to be consultation and a consideration of alternatives. With HS2, these are the aspects that we are most concerned about.

Update: 28 January 2013

Next phase of High Speed Rail 2 announced

The next phase of HS2 (High Speed Rail 2) going north of the West Midlands in Y routes to Leeds and to Manchester was announced by the government on Monday 28 January.

The Government’s initial preferred routes for the northern sections of HS2 were given in a written statement to Parliament on Monday 28 January. This is not a formal consultation at this stage. If the process followed is similar to the first stage of HS2, these routes will be modified before a formal consultation goes ahead.

In December HMWT supported the Judicial Review brought by HS2 Action Alliance setting out environmental grounds challenging the lawfulness of the Government’s decision on HS2. HMWT is surprised that the government has decided to go ahead with the announcement of the next phase of HS2 before the results of the five Judicial Reviews heard in December are published.

There are signs that the government has learned some lessons from Phase 1 of the HS2 route. It is likely that the routes going north to Leeds and to Manchester will follow existing transport corridors, and the Government has identified some key ecological impacts at an early stage. However, it is not clear if all the available data on important wildlife habitats provided by The Wildlife Trusts affected by these routes, has been taken into account.

Update: 29 March 2012

Wildlife Trusts lodge complaint with European Commission

Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and three other Wildlife Trusts have written to the European Commission to complain that the UK Government chose the High Speed Rail (HS2) route between London and the West Midlands without taking proper account of its environmental impacts. The letter is supported by other conservation groups and the HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), one of four other organisations that submitted a request to the UK Courts for a judicial review of the decision to go ahead with Phase 1.

A flawed process
The Government did not carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) before the HS2 route was decided upon. The SEA would have required a thorough investigation of the environmental impacts of the route - and viable alternatives.

The Right Lines Charter
The Right Lines Charter (published 8 April 2011) has been agreed between an alliance of powerful organisations including the Wildlife Trusts, 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.