The Trust is calling for Highways England to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), as instructed by the EU Habitats Directive, to enable a full public consultation on the proposals for all three corridors. Read the Executive Summary of the Trusts' response to Highways England.
Neil Clennell, the Wildlife Trust’s Director of Conservation & Education for Oxfordshire says: “If the SEA is not undertaken before a preferred corridor is selected, the opportunity to fully scrutinise the comparative impacts of all possible Expressway routes will be lost.”
Each of the three proposed routes has the potential to have devastating impacts on the natural environment and nationally-important wildlife. The Wildlife Trust’s most serious concerns are for the complex of designated sites and nature reserves in the areas of Cothill Fen near Abingdon, Oxford Meadows, the Otmoor Basin including the RSPB reserve, and the Upper Ray Valley and Bernwood Forest in Buckinghamshire, which includes several Wildlife Trust nature reserves.
These areas include:
- ancient and rare flower-rich floodplain meadows
- fens of a habitat so rare that only 19 hectares remain in England
- floodplain grazing marsh supporting some of the best remaining populations in lowland England of rare and declining wading birds such as curlew and lapwing
- ancient hedgerows that are the UK stronghold for the rare black and brown hairstreak butterflies
- ancient woodlands that are home to breeding populations of Bechstein’s bats, one of the UK’s rarest mammals
The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust and the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants have submitted a full response to a closed consultation led by Highways England. Read it here.
In addition, the Wildlife Trust is lobbying MPs with constituencies affected by the Expressway corridors. Layla Moran MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, John Howell MP for Henley, Keith Taylor MEP, Cllr Bob Price from Oxford City Council and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership have all called for public consultation and Strategic Environmental Assessment on the Expressway before Highways England selects a preferred corridor by July.