Experts warn of 'devastating impact’ of HS2 on wildlife in South Yorkshire

An artist's impression of how HS2 could look.
An artist's impression of how HS2 could look.

Wildlife experts in South Yorkshire say HS2 could have a ‘devastating impact’ on important places for wild plants and animals in the region.

The Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust say a draft environmental statement published by HS2 Ltd indicates the new route will impact on six important local wildlife sites and ancient woodlands in our area.

These include Nor Wood and locks, Nickerwood and ponds, King’s Pond Plantation, Firsby Reservoir, Hooton Cliff and Foers Wood, all of which are within the boundaries of Rotherham Borough Council.

They are now calling for more detail about likely impact of the controversial project through the region as well as assurances that any losses will be replaced by new sites along the line of route.

Liz Ballard, CEO of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, said: “On the basis of the information currently available, we strongly object to the proposed scheme in Sheffield and Rotherham.

“Whilst we appreciate this is a working draft, the lack of evidence available compared to what we would normally expect to see in an Environmental Statement makes it impossible for us to objectively assess and offer any constructive comment on the proposals.

“There is simply not enough information available to review the scheme at this time.

“It is also high time that HS2 Ltd met the same requirements of all other developers, as set out in Government policy, to seek a ‘net gain’ for wildlife.”

The trust say they are ‘especially concerned’ about the potential impact on important priority species in the area, notably bats, as well as a loss of access to nature for people wanting to visit Firsby Reservoir.

And they say the information for Sheffield is even more limited, with no assessment yet on the impacts of electrification of the existing line to make it compatible for high speed trains.

A public consultation on the likely environmental impacts of HS2 Phase 2b – the part of the high speed rail link which passes through Sheffield and Rotherham – closed on Friday, December 21.

Nationally, twelve highly protected areas for nature conservation known as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 111 Local Wildlife Sites and 19 ancient woodlands will be seriously damaged.

Wildlife Trusts across the UK have challenged HS2 Ltd to create and restore more wild places than are being destroyed and damaged by the construction of the route, and to save irreplaceable habitats like wetlands, and ancient woodlands from destruction.