Group warns high-speed railway poses threat to 500 wildlife sites

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UP TO 500 wildlife sites will be affected by the development of the planned high speed rail line which will run from London to Yorkshire, conservationists have warned.

Estimates by the Wildlife Trusts suggested the proposed HS2 scheme will damage and destroy more wildlife habitat and populations of wild species than it will take steps to replace.

A report by the trusts, which oppose HS2, called on the Government to back the creation of a ribbon of natural areas running along the route to protect and restore the countryside and communities, if the project goes ahead.

The environmental scheme would create habitats about half a mile to either side of the rail line and “green bridges” with trees, grass and hedges spanning the track to link up areas divided by the scheme. The work to create 37,000 acres of wetlands, grasslands and woods and 120 miles of new footpaths and cycle routes would initially cost just £130m, less than one per cent of the total cost of HS2, the report said.

The Wildlife Trusts said the proposals for HS2, in phase one of the project to Birmingham and phase two to Manchester and Leeds, would directly or indirectly affect 10 Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

About 150 existing and 43 proposed local wildlife sites would be affected, including 43 ancient woods and nine Wildlife Trust nature reserves.

The trusts also warned while the development is intended to lead to no net loss of habitats and species, the measures outlined so far would fall short of replacing what was lost.