A new report from the Wildlife Trust has suggested the HS2 high-speed rail project will destroy and divide “huge swathes” of “irreplaceable” natural habitats, including 108 ancient woodlands.
The report used data from 14 Wildlife Trusts affected by the plans and is said to be the “most comprehensive” assessment of the environmental damage that HS2 could cause.
The project, estimated to cost £88 billion overall, aims to provide a high speed rail service linking London to northern England.
But according to the trust, the current proposals will “risk the loss of, or significantly impact”: five wildlife refuges of international importance, 33 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and 693 Classified Local Wildlife Sites.
On top of that it said 21 Designated Local Nature Reserves, 26 Large landscape-scale initiatives, 18 Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves and 108 "irreplaceable" ancient woodlands were also at risk.
Nikki Williams, The Wildlife Trusts' director of campaigns and policy, said: “The figures are grim and the reality is worse.
“HS2 will destroy precious carbon-capturing habitats if it's allowed to continue in its current form. It will damage the very ecosystems that provide a natural solution to the climate emergency.”
However, a spokesman from HS2 said the figures were “not accurate”.
He said: “HS2 take the environmental cost of construction very seriously.
“That is why we're delivering an unprecedented programme of tree planting and habitat creation alongside the new railway - with seven million new trees and shrubs set to be planted between London and Birmingham alone - new native woodland planted to link up ancient woodland, and tailored mitigation plans in place for protected species.”
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