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New report reveals that HS2 Ltd got its nature figures wrong - The Wildlife Trusts

UK Government must require re-evaluation of nature loss and compensation say The Wildlife Trusts

A new evidence report, ‘HS2 double jeopardy: how the UK’s largest infrastructure project undervalued nature and overvalued its compensation measures’ reveals fundamental flaws in the way HS2 Ltd has assessed the value of nature along the construction path of HS2.

It finds that HS2 Ltd has hugely undervalued natural habitats and the wildlife that is being destroyed by the construction along the route – while simultaneously overvaluing the impact of its nature compensation measures.

For example, Phase 1 which covers 140 miles of track between London and the West Midlands, will cause at least 7.9 times more nature loss than accounted for by HS2 Ltd. The new analysis finds that HS2 Ltd has hugely undervalued wild places being destroyed along the route – while simultaneously overvaluing the impact of its nature compensation measures.

The evidence report is a review of the No Net Loss* data for HS2 Phases 1 and 2a and was commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts. It reveals:

  • Across Phase 1 of HS2 (2021 scheme): at least 7.9 times more biodiversity loss than that calculated by HS2 Ltd
  • Across Phase 2a of HS2: at least 3.6 times more biodiversity loss than that calculated by HS2 Ltd

HS2 Ltd promised that nature would not lose out when much-loved natural areas and important habitats were destroyed to make way for construction of the high-speed rail line. It made a commitment to No Net Loss of biodiversity for replaceable habitats along Phase 1 and 2a of the route, and a net gain for biodiversity along Phase 2b.

Compensating for nature losses relies on accurate baseline assessments of the value of wildlife habitats along the route – for example, by looking to see how species-rich the grasslands are or how diverse woodlands are in terms of the mix of native tree species and complexity of woodland structure, the quality of the understorey and woodland plants.

Discovery by wildlife watcher in Ashford described as ‘exciting and significant’ by conservation charity - Kent Wildlife Trust

Image: Ian Rickards – Beaver signs Conningbrook
Image: Ian Rickards – Beaver signs Conningbrook

An eagle-eyed wildlife watcher captured a video of a beaver on the river at Conningbrook Lakes Country Park, Ashford.

This is the first time a wild beaver has been spotted in the area, known to live on the River Stour, some of the Little Stour, and at Ham Fen nature reserve between Sandwich and Deal.

The rare sighting has sparked hopes that a beaver colony may have formed in the Ashford Country Park. A follow-up visit by Kent Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency, confirmed there is evidence of wild beavers in the area. This has been labeled a ‘significant’ and ‘exciting’ find by experts.

Kent Wildlife Trust’s Amy Fitzmaurice said: ‘This is a hugely significant and exciting discovery and the first documented case of a wild beaver in the Ashford area. It is incredibly hard to see beavers in the wild as they tend to be nocturnal, but on this occasion a wildlife watcher was able to not only see the animal, but film it too.’

‘On receipt of the footage we set up a site visit and there is clear evidence of beavers in the area with chewed sticks and branches laying around, footprints in soft mud and bark peeled from tree stumps.’

‘Kent Wildlife Trust is a member of the East Kent Beaver Advisory Group (EKBAG) and this discovery will now form part of the Kent Beaver survey, commissioned by Natural England and delivered by us and the Beaver Trust.’

Beavers are a keystone species and manage habitats in a unique way. They build dams which act as a natural filter, cleaning the water of silts and pollutants. The dams also create localised flooding in areas that are appropriate, away from urban areas, which creates a buffer which holds water and slows the flow.

Good news for dolphins

Success! Tidal turbine project that could harm dolphins is halted - Whale and Dolphin Conservation

Following years of campaign work to halt a tidal turbine development in Wales that could seriously injure porpoises and dolphins, we are delighted to report that the scheme has now been halted.

Nova Innovation, the company behind the turbine development has revealed that its Enlli Tidal Project will now be mothballed, a move that lifts the threat of significant impacts on a population of Risso’s dolphins, and harbour porpoises and their ability to feed, breed and raise their young in the sea off Bardsey Island.

In recent years, we have consistently lobbied Welsh MPs and called for the Crown Estate to remove the lease area as a site for development due to concerns about the threat to these marine mammals. Using this technology in such a sensitive site would be inappropriate.

‘Generally, we welcome the development of well-considered marine renewable energy, and any projects that help to mitigate climate change’, says WDC campaigner Vicki James. ‘But when we first heard of plans for a tidal development in Bardsey Sound we were alarmed that the location was directly in a designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and in the key feeding area and nursing ground for porpoises and dolphins.'

There is currently very little information about how whales and dolphins interact with tidal energy devices. What little exists gives a real cause for concern, including high encounter rates with turbines and collisions with rotating blades likely to cause direct injury, and in some cases death. Of equal concern is how these devices change the tidal flow and disrupt feeding patterns.

Back in 1999, WDC started research into the harbour porpoise and Risso’s dolphin populations off Bardsey, the small island in north Wales (Welsh: Ynys Enlli). The data we have collected over the years demonstrates how important this unique island is for the harbour porpoise and Risso’s dolphin, as well as short-beaked common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins.

We recognise the importance of trialling renewable energy solutions in the fight to combat climate change, but the importance of these porpoise and Risso’s populations for a healthy marine ecosystem and in fighting the climate and biodiversity crises are just starting to be understood

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