High Speed Rail 2

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

HS2: the countryside under threat by Helen Walsh www.lonelycottage.co.ukHS2: the countryside under threat by Helen Walsh/www.lonelycottage.co.uk

The proposed High Speed 2 railway route is set to carve through 15 important wildlife sites in our area, damaging them forever.

Latest news about High Speed 2

22 May BBOWT submits petition to Parliament.

25 April A new natural vision for HS2 - if it goes ahead

7 April Ancient woodlands are irreplaceable and cannot be compensated for if HS2 rips through them

27 February 'Impacts on nature and wildlife have not been properly assessed' states BBOWT response to HS2 Ltd Environmental Statement.

27 February - Ancient woodlands in the Chilterns could be saved by HS2 tunnel extension

In January 2012, the then Secretary of State for Transport announced that the creation of a new high speed rail network for the UK would go ahead.

The network, known as High Speed Rail 2 (or HS2), will be a high capacity railway linking the North of England to London and beyond, connecting directly to the continent (Via HS1 and the Channel Tunnel) and to Heathrow airport.

The route

Impact on wildlife

What BBOWT is doing

What you can do


Phase 1 of the High Speed Rail 2 route High Speed 2 - route

Phase 1

Click on the image to the right to enlarge.

The proposed London to Birmingham High Speed Rail HS2 route will affect:

  • 2 Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust nature reserves
  • 4 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
  • 28 Local Wildlife Sites
  • 29 ancient woodlands

Phase 2

The impacts of the second phase of HS2 north from the West Midlands to Leeds and to Manchester are now being assessed in detail by the nine Wildlife Trusts affected by the routes.

Read more on the Wildlife Trusts website.

Impacts on wildlife

People would weep if they could see what their children and future generations will lose if the project goes ahead

Cheryl Gillan MP

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust is not against High Speed rail in principle.

However, only some wildlife impacts were considered when HS2 Ltd initially chose the proposed route, and among the issues not taken into account were our own nature reserves at Finemere Wood and Calvert Jubilee, and the potential impacts on key species, such as the very rare Bechstein's bat in the woodlands of Bernwood Forest.

Failure to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the proposed HS2 route and alternatives means that information presented during the initial HS2 consultation process under-represents impacts on the natural environment. 


What BBOWT is doing

  • May BBOWT submits Petition to Parliament calling for improvements to the route to avoid impacts on wildlife at Finemere Wood and Calvert Jubilee nature reserves.
  • April the Wildlife Trusts publish the 'greener vision for HS2' calling for a net gain for biodiversity from the multi-million pound project.
  • April BBOWT submits response to the HS2 Environmental Statement and calls for environmental surveys to be completed before Parliament decides on HS2 route.
  • February Bechstein's bats at Finemere Wood could be 'wiped out' says report commissioned by BBOWT.
  • February BBOWT response to the Environment Statement submitted. Estelle Bailey, chief executive, calls on the Prime Minister to intervene and ensure a tunnel under the Chilterns is extended to protect ancient woodland from destruction.
  • January BBOWT is responding to the Environmental Statement, which runs to more than 55,000 pages. Read more
  • June 2013 BBOWT commented on the draft Environmental Statement, which ran to more than 7,000 pages. Read more.
  • March 2013 BBOWT contributed to Buckinghamshire's Mitigation Blueprint for HS2, published by Bucks County Council on 5 March. Read more.
  • December 2012-current BBOWT supported the case brought by HS2 Action Alliance, setting out environmental grounds challenging the lawfulness of the Government’s decision on HS2. Read more.
  • March 2012 BBOWT raised a complaint with the European Commission. Download the press release.
  • BBOWT met regularly with the environmental team and engineers from HS2 Ltd to explain the local impacts that the route would have, and what might be done to limit the damage. There have now been significant improvements; for example the current plans show the route now only clips our reserve at Calvert Jubilee. There are still many major concerns, particularly about the impacts to ancient woodlands in the Chilterns and to the bats in Bernwood Forest.
  • Summer 2011 BBOWT ran a campaign asking our members to respond to the proposals for HS2. More than 2000 of you responded, and these responses were sent to the Government agency running the HS2 consultation. In the autumn we ran a further call asking Trust members to email MPs to rethink the proposals. We know that many members wrote to their MPs - thank you. 

What you can do to help


27 February

Impacts on wildlife have not been properly assessed

BBOWT is very concerned that the rush to push ahead with the HS2 rail line means that impacts on nature and wildlife have not been properly assessed. BBOWT has today submitted a detailed response to the HS2 Ltd Environmental Statement which sets out the likely impacts of the proposed high speed rail line for MPs to consider before they vote on whether or not to proceed with the project.

Matt Jackson, head of conservation strategy and policy at BBOWT, said: “The statement is intended to give MPs a real understanding of the impacts that HS2 could have before the make a decision on whether, and how, to go ahead with the project.

"Anyone reading the non-technical summary would be left with the impression that all the wildlife impacts of HS2 have been dealt with, but that’s far from the truth.

"The reality is that irreplaceable Ancient Woodland will be destroyed, our own nature reserves, Finemere Wood and Calvert Jubilee, will be affected, and the proposals as they stand could wipe out one of Britain’s rarest mammals from our three counties.”

BBOWT commissioned a review of the HS2 proposals by experts from the University of Leeds, who concluded that if the project goes ahead unchanged it could lead to the local extinction of Bechstein’s bats, a species of bat so rare there are thought to be only around 1,500 in the UK.

Matt Jackson said: “Our own review of the Environmental Statement shows that HS2 Ltd have significantly underestimated the impact of the proposals, and have wrongly concluded that the compensation they propose means that MPs can approve the project on the basis that there will be ‘no net loss’ to wildlife.”

The Wildlife Trusts will be submitting further evidence on the wildlife impact of HS2 on biodiversity to the Environmental Audit Committee, which is undertaking its own review of the government’s approach to the environmental impacts of HS2.

Supreme Court judgement means it's up to MPs to scrutinise HS2 hybrid bill

BBOWT is very disappointed, but not surprised, that the Supreme Court has chosen to rule that a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was not necessary for the HS2 proposals, writes Matt Jackson, head of conservation strategy at BBOWT.

Our concern about HS2 has always been that the decision to select a route was taken before there was any proper investigation of the environmental impact.

Because Parliament can, theoretically, change the route, the Supreme Court judges have decided there is no legal requirement for an SEA to be carried out.

We think this sets a very worrying precedent for projects that come forward in this way.

BBOWT understands that HS2 Action Alliance, which brought the case to the Supreme Court, is planning to take a complaint to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee, and also to make a complaint to the European Commission. If this complaint is accepted, the UK Government will be taken to the European Court of Justice to explain why a Strategic Environmental Assessment for HS2 was not carried out.

Summary of HS2 news in 2013

Supreme Court hearing

On 15 and 16 October 2013 seven justices of the Supreme Court heard the legal arguments relating to the Judicial Review of the decision to take forward HS2 without undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment.

Matt Jackson, BBOWT's Head of Strategy and Conservation commented: "The Wildlife Trusts have been calling for the Strategic Environmental Assessment ever since the first HS2 proposals were put forward. We hope the Supreme Court will agree with us and HS2 Action Alliance [the organisation bringing the case to the Supreme Court], so that HS2 Ltd carries out a proper environmental assessment that includes real alternatives to the current HS2 proposals."

If an SEA had been undertaken, planners would have been aware of key wildlife sites that would be affected by the proposed high speed railway before a preferred route was chosen. These sites include the Bernwood Forest area where the very rare Bechstein’s bats could be seriously affected by the proposals.

At the Appeal Court hearing on 24 July, one of the three Court of Appeal judges, Lord Justice Sullivan, agreed with HS2 Action Alliance that an SEA should have been done.

He stated: “If, as I have concluded, an SEA is required and there has not been substantial compliance with the SEAD [EU environmental law], it would be difficult to think of a more egregious breach of the Directive given the scale of the HS2 project and the likely extent of its effects on the environment.”

Devastation of Ancient Woodlands debated in Parliament this week

Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan met Matt Jackson, Head of Conservation and Strategy at BBOWT to see at first-hand the woodlands that will be damaged by the HS2 proposals in her constituency before speaking in a Westminster debate on 3 July 2013.

During the debate Mrs Gillan described the special features of Mantles Wood, “one of the most beautiful woods that can be imagined.” Because of the work on the tunnel portals, 6.3 hectares would be lost from the 20.45 hectares of woodland. “People would weep if they could see what their children and future generations will lose if the project goes ahead,” said Mrs Gillan.

“The loss of ancient woodland can never be compensated (for); it does not matter what the Transport Minister says or how many people write it,” warned Mrs Gillan, who later made an impassioned plea for HS2 to be cancelled.

Although the Government has agreed to extend tunnelling for HS2 in the Chilterns to reduce the visual impact of the rail line, the current proposals have a twin-bore tunnel emerging directly through Mantles Wood, west of Amersham. The route would then run straight through two more ancient woodlands, Farthings Wood and Sibley’s Coppice, before it would completely flatten Jones’ Hill Wood, a fragment of ancient Chilterns woodland that would be clear-felled.

BBOWT responded to Draft Environmental Statement

In June BBOWT’s conservation officers and other staff responded to the Draft Environmental Statement. The key concerns were:

  • We are very concerned about the limited survey access that HS2 have been able to secure. The consultation draft says that they are working with Natural England to develop a “precautionary approach” to surveyed areas, but no details are provided.
  • If HS2 Ltd intends to make sure this project results in ‘net gain for nature’, as recommended in the Natural Environment White Paper and National Planning Policy Framework, they must obtain more evidence and data, and supply details of mitigation and compensation for the entire route.
  • We recognise that we are commenting on a Draft Environmental Statement, which HS2 Ltd acknowledges is not complete due to the lack of surveying. We believe there may not be enough time before publication of the final Environmental Statement for HS2 Ltd to carry out sufficiently in-depth surveying and to have a full understanding of the impacts, and therefore the amount of mitigation and compensation required.

Judicial Review Appeal
HS2 Action Alliance appeal against Mr Justice Ouseley's decision relating to the Government’s non-compliance with important environmental legislation was heard on 10 June 2013. HS2 Action Alliance’s case is that the Government should have completed a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the options before settling its approach.

Judicial Reviews

The results of the five Judicial Reviews, heard in the High Court in December 2012, were announced on Friday 15 March 2013.

BBOWT and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust supported the Judicial Review brought by HS2 Action Alliance, which set out environmental grounds challenging the lawfulness of the Government’s decision on phase one of HS2.

The submission focused on how, in our view, the Government had acted unlawfully in not complying with Strategic Environmental Assessment regulations, and ignored its obligations under the Habitats Directive to carry out impact assessments on protected species and habitats. We believe the Government had tried to side-step a vital process for ensuring that decisions that affect the environment are soundly made.

Summary of HS2 Judicial Review judgements with Mr Justice Ouseley's conclusions as read in High Court.

Buckinghamshire Blueprint
The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust, along with other environmental organisations, contributed to Buckinghamshire's Mitigation Blueprint for HS2, published by Bucks County Council on 5 March 2013.

It details the mitigation measures required for a wide range of issues including: the environment, landscape and water resources, as well as the endowments needed to maintain them into the future.

‘Seeking the best, if it comes to the worst’ download the Bucks Blueprint (4mb)

The key principle for ecology and wildlife is: wherever possible, to avoid damage and reinstate habitats or, where this cannot be avoided, to offset the adverse impacts on habitats and species caused by the construction and implementation of HS2.

The Buckinghamshire Blueprint calls for the Environmental Impact Assessment to address:

  • A net gain of biodiversity. We expect HS2 Ltd to work with BBOWT and other wildlife organisations to implement a positive system for biodiversity offsetting in a measurable way. This also applies to populations of species and offsite habitat creation, which must be carried out before construction so that habitats can mature and species adapt.
  • Maintain and increase habitat connectivity. The project will fragment habitats and cut through wildlife corridors, so it is of vital importance that the proposed ‘green bridges’ are designed to allow animal movements where they are needed. HS2 Ltd will be expected to ensure land for new wildlife corridors is safeguarded as early as possible.
  • Improve management of habitats, especially the creation of new habitats to compensate for unavoidable loss, and enhanced management of existing sites.
  • Comprehensive and long-term monitoring schemes to monitor the effectiveness of both mitigation and biodiversity offsetting, and measures to adapt them in the event of failures to meet ecological objectives.

Summary of HS2 news in 2012

Environmental Impact Assessment

BBOWT, together with other Wildlife Trusts and environmental organisations, responded to consultation on the scope of HS2 Ltd's proposed Environmental Impact Assessment.

BBOWT gave permission for surveyors acting on behalf of HS2 Ltd to enter our nature reserves (Finemere Wood and Calvert Jubilee) to carry out surveys for a number of protected species, with the exception of Bechstein’s bats.

Because there are concerns about the number of surveys being carried out on the Bechstein’s bats, HS2 Ltd met local bat groups and BBOWT to make sure the bats would not suffer from the survey process itself.

In November BBOWT hosted a meeting for county wildlife recorders from Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire with ecologists working for HS2 Ltd. This enabled the county wildlife recorders to see the detailed route and raise specific issues relating to the impacts on wildlife and habitats. Similar meetings were held with other Wildlife Trusts along the HS2 route.

The Wildlife Trust’s response to the HS2 EIA Scope and Methodology Consultation, produced in May, included specific information from BBOWT. This is acknowledged in the HS2 Ltd EIA Scope document published in September, although BBOWT is not listed as a consultee.

BBOWT comments on the route published January 2012

We have examined the new route maps produced by HS2 Ltd in January 2012 showing altered alignments, the extended bored tunnel near Amersham and proposed green tunnels - these are 'cut and cover' tunnels.

The altered route increases the impacts on the Ancient Woodlands of Mantles and Farthings Woods and Sibley's Coppice in the Chilterns. The railway tracks will be in a cutting, so more land will be taken right through these woods.

In the Vale of Aylesbury the route is slightly altered at the Wildlife Trust’s Calvert Jubilee nature reserve, which will still be badly affected by the railway lines and a new road across the reserve.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest and woods in the Bernwood Forest area, where Bechstein’s bats have been recorded, are still affected by the proposed route.

Other wildlife sites further north in Buckinghamshire and on the border with Northamptonshire will now be directly impacted because of the route changes. Habitats affected include meadows at Chetwode near Tingewick and sensitive wet grassland and fen at Turweston.

In July 2012 the Department for Transport revealed that 413 responses to the HS2 consultation in 2011 were omitted from the consultation summary. These included responses from the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, HS2 Action Alliance and 51M. In September the Department for Transport acknowledged that another 722 responses were not fully analysed.


Summary of HS2 news in 2011

The proposed London to Birmingham High Speed Rail HS2 route will affect:

  • 2 Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust nature reserves
  • 4 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
  • 28 Local Wildlife Sites
  • 29 ancient woodlands

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust response to the Government’s HS2 consultation highlights:

  • Failure to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the proposed HS2 route and alternatives means that information presented during the consultation process under-represents impacts on the natural environment. This calls into question the validity of the consultation itself.
  • Viability of the economic case for HS2 is questionable because the ecological impacts and consequent mitigation are underestimated.
  • The population of Bechstein’s bats in the Bernwood Forest area is highly significant and could be more important than many existing designated sites. Bechstein’s bats are highly protected under EU and UK law.

More than 2,000 Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust members responded to the HS2 consultation - thank you


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A-Z of Wildlife

Photo of Bechstein's Bat

Name: Bechstein's Bat

Scientific name: Myotis bechsteinii

Category: Mammals

View full A-Z