Wildlife Trusts launch fresh challenge to HS2

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RARE butterfly and bird habitats near Buckingham and Bicester could be lost if the Government’s high-speed rail proposals get the go-ahead, the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) said last week.

The Trust is part of an alliance of national charities launching a new challenge against the Government’s HS2 proposals, calling for a national transport strategy that takes account of environmental impacts.

Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve is among 160 threatened wildlife sites between London and Birmingham, the alliance says. The reserve, created on a former brickworks claypit, is home to rare butterflies including black and green hairstreaks, and the grizzled skipper.

The site also provides ideal conditions for orchids and other wildflowers.

Wendy Tobitt, a BBOWT spokesman, said: “The black hairstreak in particular loves blackthorn, which often grows along disused railway lines.

“Calvert Jubilee has two lines, which are used part-time for the nearby landfill site. It’s especially interesting because it’s a post-industrial site.”

Mrs Tobitt said the landfill operator Waste Recycling Group had worked with the trust to create locations for birdwatchers to observe the large numbers of wildfowl and waders which visit the reserve.

She added: “HS2 will be bad news for people who go to Calvert Jubilee to look at the birds and have a peaceful time. The birds could eventually adapt, but it’s the people who will find it noisy with trains passing by. There will be quite a lot of land take for the construction, as well as for the rail line itself. But it’s open – we don’t know how much land they’ll take.”

The alliance of major national charities includes the Chiltern Society, Campaign to Protect Rural England and Woodland Trust. The groups have signed The Right Lines Charter, a document setting out guidelines for high speed rail development.

Philippa Lyons, chief executive of the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, said: “As it stands, HS2 is on track to deliver a damaged natural environment. We need efficient and sustainable transport systems but they must not be achieved at the expense of the environment.

“The proposed HS2 route will fragment the landscape, threaten important wildlife sites and undermine action to support nature’s recovery. Breaking up habitats is one of the biggest causes of wildlife loss, and the Government seems to want to do this in spite of its ambition to be ‘green’.

“You would expect a project of this magnitude to have a comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment, looking at all aspects of the project, but the Government has not done this.”

More information on the campaign is available on the website www.bbowt.org.uk.

People can give their views on HS2 online at the Department for Transport website, by post, and at HS2 roadshows where there will be detailed maps for each area.

HS2 roadshows will be held along the proposed route including Greatworth Sports and Social Club on May 17, Calvert Green Community Centre on May 26, and at Brackley Leisure Centre on May 27 and 28. The events run from 8am to 8pm.