Ecosystems permanently damaged. Irreplaceable habitats destroyed. Taxpayer's money spent on restoration wasted. Wildlife extinctions at a local level. This could be nature’s fate if the current plans for HS2 continue.
In the most comprehensive environmental assessment to date we can reveal the sheer scale of potential damage from HS2. Our report shows that the deep cut HS2 will make across the landscape could stop nature’s recovery in its tracks. As the costs to nature escalate, we’re urging the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to use his power now to stop and rethink this project, or the scar may never heal.
On 11 May 2021 the Government unexpectedly announced that a draft law would soon be brought before Parliament to allow compulsory purchase measures and other preliminaries to begin for the construction of HS2 northwards from Crewe, with a spur to a new station in Manchester; and for its western main line to continue to just short of Wigan. Previously this wasn’t expected until early 2022. This means that we, and Cheshire Wildlife Trust, will likely need to submit a detailed petition to Parliament’s backbench HS2 select committee to secure the right to present evidence later at the House of Commons.
So far, HS2 Ltd has only pledged to 'no net loss' for wildlife. This does not help to solve the huge declines of 56 per cent of our most-loved plants and animals in recent decades. Proactive steps need to be taken to help nature's recovery and we continue to press HS2 Ltd and Government on this at a national level.
Why is HS2 such a threat?
Hundreds of important habitats and special wild places are under threat from the government's proposed High Speed 2 (HS2) rail network. Ancient woodland, peatlands, meadows, lakes and other important habitats are at risk. Yet, there has not been a Strategic Environmental Assessment and the compensation plans being put forward are not good enough.
The Government and HS2 Ltd acknowledge that the route can't be delivered without extreme harm to the natural environment. Furthermore, the deep cut and divisive scar the route will cause along the length of England's habitats pose a genuine barrier to the urgent action required to recover nature and restore landscapes. The current approach to HS2 means that a Nature Recovery Network - a joined-up system of places important for wild plants and animals, on land and at sea (which the Government itself has committed to) - would be impossible.
How will HS2 affect wildlife in our region?
Phase 2b of HS2 will cause deep ruptures across some of our regions most important wild places; destroying important habitats, displacing wildlife and hemming in species that need room to roam to survive. The route will affect three main areas:
The Great Manchester Wetlands NIA
The proposed high speed line would completely sever the east of the Great Manchester Wetlands Nature Improvement Area (NIA) from its west; and the Manchester Mosses Special Area of Conservation within it; further impeding nature’s recovery. The NIA is already severed north from south by the M62, the Liverpool to Manchester railway and the East Lancashire Road (A580); and east from west by the London to Glasgow railway, the M6, and the Liverpool to Manchester railway.
We've spent years restoring these precious remnants of ancient wild space to their former glory and healing the scars already wrought by human development. In fact, we're reintroducing a butterfly that has been extinct on the Manchester Mosses for more than 150 years. We don't want to see this work go to waste and the large heath disappear again amidst further fragmentation that will cut up the feeding, breeding and roaming grounds of truly unique creatures.
Ponds Near Lightshaw Lane
HS2 would also completely destroy a Local Wildlife Site: the ‘Ponds Near Lightshaw Lane’ Site of Biological Importance between Lowton and Abram. The large wetland is of county importance for large populations of breeding and overwintering wildfowl, while clusters of marl pit ponds support valuable populations of frogs, toads and newts, water-beetles, and breeding black darter dragonflies and emerald damselflies.
Davenport Green Wood
A spur proposed to run past Manchester Airport into a new terminus next to Manchester Piccadilly, would be tunnelled under the City of Manchester, so avoiding immediate impact on a chain of ancient and secondary woodlands stretching towards the city centre. However, this is assuming the tunnel ventilation shafts and temporary construction yards also avoid those woods.
About a third of the ancient Davenport Green Wood, just across the boundary in Trafford Borough, is proposed to be destroyed to make way for the new Manchester Airport station, further degrading a shrinking woodland network that is already fragmented by the M56 motorway, urban and suburban development, and invasive plant species. The latest public consultation from HS2 Ltd (October 2020) proposes the destruction of even more of this wood (comments need to be made by 11 December 2020).
If we're to address the extinction crisis already recognised in the UK Parliament’s declaration of a Climate and Environment Emergency, and to deliver shared ambitions for a Nature Recovery Network across Greater Manchester, HS2 needs a major rethink.