HS2 unveil ‘green corridor’ to lessen environmental damage
A ‘green corridor’ of new wildlife habitats, woodlands and community spaces will stretch alongside the controversial High Speed 2 (HS2) railway under plans unveiled today.
This includes expanding wildlife habitats by 30% to over 33 square kilometers – the equivalent of 4,600 football pitches – and planting seven million new trees and shrubs.
The scale of the planned work will be the largest undertaken by an infrastructure project in the UK, and is expected to set standards for how the rest of Europe delivers such schemes.
“HS2’s green corridor is one of the most significant tree-planting and habitat creation projects ever undertaken in this country,” HS2 minister, Nusrat Ghani, said.
“As we deliver the new high speed railway our country needs, it is imperative we set a new standard for preserving, protecting and enhancing our diverse woodlands and wildlife.”
The new work will run alongside the phase one route of the HS2 project, covering 216km from London to the West Midlands.
Tailor-made wildlife homes ranging from bat houses to new ponds will be constructed, while earthworks and landscaping will re-use around 90% of the material excavated during construction.
In addition, the government announced today that an extra £2m would be provided to restore green spaces along the phase 2a route between the West Midlands and Crewe.
However, the proposals were described as nothing more than “greenwash nonsense” by the Woodland Trust, which said HS2 would destroy more than 40 hectares of rare and ancient forests.
One of the charity’s ecologists, Luci Ryan, likened the plans to “smashing a Ming vase and replacing it with bargain basement crockery”, insisting HS2 would be one of the most environmentally destructive projects seen in decades.
“And once that ancient woodland is gone, it’s gone forever, so while planting new trees is all well and good, it’s no substitute for what will be lost,” she continued.
“Their plans - which let’s not forget are a condition of the scheme, not being delivered out of the goodness of their hearts – fall woefully short of replacing what will be lost on something being touted as a green infrastructure project.”
Image credit: HS2
Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM