THE IMPACT ON OUR WILDLIFE
HS2 protesters are preparing to do battle with the government in a bid to protect the Chilterns from the impact from the rail project. JACK ABELL and LORCAN LOVETT take a look into how the line could affect wildlife in the county, and what can be done for
ASK homeowners, business owners and estate agents what their biggest fear for the future is and it will not be long before the words ‘high speed rail’ enter the conversation.
Ever since the government gave the go ahead to the line more than two years ago, campaigners and protesters have made their views on the subject crystal clear.
We have been told about the impact the project will have on the county’s roads, house prices and landscape, with the line set to plough through the Chilterns Area of Natural Beauty.
But it is not just people who are affected. Our wildlife is also in the firing line. Creatures face the prospect of having their homes and habitats destroyed. Campaigners are ready to fight for mammals, birds and insects too.
Conservationists will be among the people set to lobby the government’s select committee early next year to make their case for more protection from the construction of the project.
HS2 Ltd says that it is keen to manage the impact on wildlife in the county where it can.
Addressing concerns about the impact on Buckinghamshire’s bee population, HS2 Ltd’s lead spokesman Ben Ruse said: “HS2 will be planting new areas of wildflower meadow to create rich habitats to replace any of those affected by the new railway or during construction.
“Wildflower grasslands on the cuttings and embankments of the railway will also create new feeding grounds for the bees.
“This means the amount of bee-friendly planting in the region will increase in the long term, which is great for bees and bee keepers’ alike.” But what else is at risk, and what can be done about it? We asked environmental groups in the county to have their say. BARN owls, bats and beech trees are most likely to suffer the impact of HS2, say the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT).
Matt Jackson, head of conservation at the Wildlife Trust, was alarmed at the government’s decision to reject proposals from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) for greater environmental compensation, or off-setting, for ancient beech woodlands such as those in the Misbourne valley.
He said: “The EAC had called for these special habitats to have the maximum score possible to recognise that they cannot be replaced, but the government states they will not increase the amount of new woodland. This is a blatant contradiction of the government’s aims that new developments should take the opportunity to work towards a ‘net gain for wildlife’.
“HS2 trains will emerge from the tunnel
NEEDING HELP: under Amersham into the middle of Mantles Wood.
“This ancient woodland of beech and oak will be devastated by the creation of the two tunnel portals, and all the ancillary embankments, cuttings and earth bunds required to support the track. Typical wildlife such as woodpeckers and finches, butterflies and bats as well as bluebells, primroses and wood anemones will simply disappear.”
WHITE ELEPHANT: Protest over HS2 High Speed Rail outside Houses of Parliament
LOOKING AHEAD: (Above) Cheryl Gillan, MP for Chesham and Amersham, with Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust’s Matt Jackson in Mantle’s Wood, one of the areas threatened by HS2; (right) a train using the proposed route from London to Birmingham
(Above) Gordon Cutting from Chalfont Beekeepers Association