In what sense is HS2 plan progress?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I am pro-public transport and so are the Wildlife Trusts. The trusts have furnished HS2 with a huge amount of information about the impact of the proposed routes, and so far there's been no recognition of that information being received or, more importantly, taken into account.

Some of the sites the route is going to affect are incredibly sensitive. Some parts go right through the middle of sensitive sites with rare species; some are cutting corridors in half. We've been successfully campaigning for a living landscape, and this means a joined-up network of habitats so we don't end up with islands of genetically isolated wasteland.

The physics of high-speed rail means it has to go pretty straight, so it's not going to go wriggling around every marsh. Sad, but true. What we need to look at is making sure it's the minimum impact, and proper mitigation to ensure the offset far outweighs the impact. And there's absolutely nothing so far: it's a completely opaque decision-making process. No one understands who's making decisions, or if it's even recognised that there will be an impact on the environment.

A big concern is the profound effect of cutting in two landscapes that are vital arteries for movement of life. Many of the sites are Sites of Special Scientific Interest; they've been designated as such for very good reason. We've got 160 wild places in phase one that will be affected, and 200 sites in phase two – you're talking about 360 areas recognised by the Wildlife Trusts as being of utmost importance to the natural world.

This is not progressive; this is regressive behaviour by human beings towards the environment upon which we all depend.

Simon King OBE is president of the Wildlife Trusts