Thursday, 9 October 2014

HS2 – can local wildlife benefit from a Slow Speed corridor?

Bird watching’s for middle-aged biddies with moustaches. Or so I always thought. Or possibly I am moving into that very category. Whatever, that’s how I spent a sunny Sunday in early October; walking around College Lake, binocs at a jaunty angle, enjoying the bright, autumnal light, picking succulent blackberries, and interrogating (from a distance) the birds on the lake to see what was out there.

BBOWT, our local wildlife conservation charity, runs College Lake; just outside Tring, just inside Buckinghamshire, BBOWT has developed it into one of the foremost locations in Bucks for bird watching. It’s a fantastic facility for humans and nature.

BBOWT runs nature reserves across Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire, and it’s not always easy: dependent on grants and public generosity, long-term survival is never assured. Now, of course, there is a new threat to our wildlife habitats in this area: HS2.

BBOWT is extremely exercised, for good reason, about this proposed development. Whilst it won’t directly affect College Lake, its impact on some other BBOWT reserves, and habitats outside the reserves, will be immeasurable, and permanent.

The stated intent of HS2 is that there should be ‘no net loss to biodiversity’, but many people fear that should it go ahead, it will massively impact local wildlife, and there is concern that the existing environmental analyses significantly underplay this issue. Local losses would include Bechstein’s bats and certain rare butterflies; wildflower meadows, wetlands and ancient woodlands would be damaged and even lost forever.

Whilst BBOWT opposes HS2, it also proposes a way that, should it be built, might mitigate this immense damage.

Its alternative vision of HS2 argues (based on thorough, academic research) that around 15,000 hectares of interlinked wild places could be established along the length of the route, for no net expense, where people could walk, cycle and enjoy nature, ultimately providing a ‘net gain’ for wildlife.

Their report ‘HS2: A vision for large-scale nature restoration along the Proposed Route’ makes the environmental, social and economic case for the Government properly to address the impact of HS2 on wildlife and ecosystems.

Personally, I find it hard to envisage how the impact of HS2 on our wildlife might be reduced to anything like an acceptable level, but at least BBOWT is trying. So you don’t have to set off in pursuit of the hirsute to support BBOWT, you could just become a member. Beards particularly welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment