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Destruction from HS2 ‘far worse’ than previously thought as hundreds of homes set for demolition

High speed rail line will see nearly 2,000 buildings demolished and ‘irreplaceable’ woodlands felled

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Saturday 13 October 2018 14:09 BST
Proposed route for the HS2 high speed rail scheme

Almost 900 homes, 1,000 businesses and around 60 “irreplaceable” ancient woodlands will be destroyed by the construction of the HS2 railway, according to the company behind the project.

The scale of damage was described as “far worse” than expected by campaigners, who accused those behind the project of opting for a more damaging route to keep costs down.

HS2 will provide a high-speed link between London and Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, but it has faced criticism due to its cost and environmental harm.

The company behind the line, government-owned HS2 Ltd, has released a summary of its predicted impact, including effects on livelihoods and health.

Among the figures listed was a projected 1,740 buildings demolished by the end of the project, including 888 homes, 985 businesses and 27 community facilities.

The line, currently set for completion in 2033, will also cut through at least 61 areas of woodland, many of which are centuries old and home to rare species of birds and bats.

In its assessment, which was based on “reasonable worst-case assumptions”, HS2 Ltd estimated that 19,590 jobs would have to be relocated, with 2,380 lost permanently. They noted that 2,340 permanent jobs would be created by the development.

“In the context of the economies of the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, West Midlands and East Midlands, which provide over 10.5 million jobs, the potential level of job loss is a relatively small proportion of total employment,” the report concluded.

As a result of this disruption, the company lists “adverse” health effects including anxiety and stress resulting from “uncertainty and lack of control”.

Additional environmental impacts noted by the company include the creation of 58 million tonnes of landfill – four times the total waste sent to landfill in the whole country annually – and the diversion of nine rivers.

Woodland Trust ecologist Luci Ryan said the destruction of 16.7 hectares of ancient woodland would be “catastrophic for the environment”.

“We were braced for bad news but this is far worse than we were expecting. At least 19 ancient woods will be lost, almost double our estimate,” she said.

“HS2 is continuing to ride roughshod over precious, irreplaceable centuries-old ancient woodland and in doing so the homes and populations of many wildlife species will be destroyed too.

“No amount of tree planting can ever make up for the loss of this precious habitat.”

Ms Ryan noted threatened species ranging from hedgehogs to lesser-spotted woodpeckers would be harmed by the creation of the rail link.

“We are going to need some time to digest the full horror of the draft environmental statement but rest assured we will stand up and fight,” she said.

Joe Rukin, campaign manager for the pressure group Stop HS2, said the new report was evidence they “don’t care about people, jobs or the environment, they only care about getting the costs down”.

“With costs everywhere else along the HS2 route spiralling out of control, it is absolutely clear HS2 Ltd has gone for the most destructive, least cost option,” he said.

Responsing to critics, an HS2 Ltd spokesperson said: “We’re designing a railway that will reshape the economic geography of the whole country, as well as transforming the way we choose to travel for work and leisure.”

“Local authorities and businesses are putting plans in place in the Midlands and the North that will see hundreds of thousands of jobs created.

“Through the public consultations, we are providing a more detailed account of how we propose to build the railway and minimise its impacts during construction and operation. We actively encourage people to have their say on the plans we have published.”

A consultation on the environmental statement is now open to the public until the end of December.

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