HS2 Committee release report: Slow but steady progress

The HS2 Select Committee has heard evidence from 1600 petitioners over the last two years; we were one of the last this month. Finally, we can read the Committee’s conclusions. 

After over three years of work, earlier this month we finally managed to condense the huge stockpile of evidence of HS2 Ltd’s shoddy environmental work, into a two hour presentation to the House of Commons Select Committee.

We’re really pleased to have succeeded in convincing of the need for change in some areas. But other areas remain largely ignored by the Committee which is not only a disappointment, but yet again brings into question the effectiveness of this process.

Thankfully, this is not the end of our involvement in the HS2 Hybrid Bill. We have another chance to petition before the House of Lords to further highlight our concerns about the impact this scheme, in its current form, will have on ancient woodland. We fully intend to do this and we would encourage anyone with their own concerns to do the same.

What did the Committee say?

The good

The Select Committee report recognised that HS2 Ltd’s no net loss of biodiversity calculation is flawed and recommended that concerns relating to this are heard before the House of Lords.

We, at the Woodland Trust, are deeply concerned that irreplaceable habitat such as ancient woodland is even being included in a no net loss of biodiversity calculation. Loss of irreplaceable habitat means that the project will cause a net loss of biodiversity. We will definitely be petitioning the House of Lords select committee to remove ancient woodland from this calculation and asking HS2 Ltd to make clear exactly what compensation is proposed for each area of woodland lost.

The Select Committee also recognised the need for the planting of trees as early into the project as possible.

Whilst this won’t replace the ancient woodland lost, it will decrease the lag time between wooded habitat being lost and new habitat growing. Other good news is the Select Committee recognised that the £30 million put aside for the Community and Environment Fund and the Business and Local Economy Fund is nowhere near enough, and they recommend that the amount is "substantially increased" .

The bad

The area of ancient woodland to be lost still remains at just over 30ha. 

This is significantly better than the 44ha that stood to be lost, but not acceptable and we will continue to campaign for changes to reduce this amount further.

We were also disappointed that the Committee has not requested HS2 Ltd to make public the proposed compensation planting ratio for the loss of ancient woodland.

The Committee asked for this at the hearing but HS2 Ltd couldn’t provide it. The Trust has been requesting this information for at least two years. It is impossible to accurately calculate this figure from the scattered information in the multiple environmental statement documents, but we estimate it to be a very low 3:1, meaning for every hectare of ancient woodland lost, three will be planted. The Trust believes this ratio should be at least 30:1.

What you can do now

The timetable for the next stages is not yet published, but we will keep you informed as to when and how you can get involved. In the meantime, thank you for all your support this far – we couldn’t do this without you.