Environmental groups challenge HS2 via EU - 26 March 2012
HS2AA fully support the letter of complaint to the EU commission over the UK’s decision on High Speed Rail, that the Berks, Bucks, and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) are sending today. Hilary Wharf, Director of HS2AA says “The UK has a bad record in applying EU environmental legislation – and if the UK courts are not going to remedy this for High Speed 2 then we are confident that the EU Commission will”
The press release from Berks, Bucks, and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is as follows:
Wildlife Trust raises complaint with European Commission over UK Government’s decision on High Speed Rail
The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust is today (Monday 26 March) taking the unprecedented action of writing to the European Commission claiming that the UK Government chose the High Speed Rail (HS2) route between London and Birmingham without taking proper account of its environmental impacts.
The Government did not carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) which would have required a thorough investigation of the environmental impacts of the HS2 route and viable alternatives. As a result, the process used by HS2 Ltd ignored vital information about the potential impacts of HS2 on nature reserves, protected species and important wildlife sites, claims the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust.
Philippa Lyons, Chief Executive of the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust explains why the Trust is taking this action: “The Government believed it wasn’t necessary to carry out an SEA. As a result they didn’t know about the nature reserves the route cuts through, or the precious woodland habitats of Bernwood Forest in Buckinghamshire, where the very rare Bechstein’s bats were discovered by a local bat group.
“The Wildlife Trust has never before been driven to complain to the European Commission, but the refusal of this Government to take proper account of wildlife issues when deciding on HS2 is beyond belief. Even now it is refusing to take our advice and carry out proper environmental assessments for Phase 2 of the HS2 route.”
The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust is collaborating with four other Wildlife Trusts affected by Phase 1 of HS2, other conservation groups and the HS2 Action Alliance, which recently sent a letter to the Government calling for a Judicial Review of its decision to go ahead without doing an SEA.
“The European Commission will not investigate our complaint while the UK courts are examining the same issues,” says Philippa Lyons. “But by submitting the complaint now, these important issues are on the Commissioner’s desk ready for immediate investigation. If the UK courts either refuse to examine them or decide they do not contravene UK legislation, the EC will be able to investigate them instead.”
The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust highlighted the impacts of the HS2 proposed route on wildlife in its response to the Government’s consultation during 2011. Thousands of responses raised similar concerns, with the vast majority calling on the Government to think again about HS2, but these were ignored by the Secretary of State when the route was announced in January this year.
Wendy Tobitt, Media & Campaigns Manager, Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01865 788318 and 07748 641452
Notes to Editors
1. Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) www.bbowt.org.uk
BBOWT is one of 47 Wildlife Trusts across the UK working to achieve the shared aim of securing a better future for wildlife. BBOWT’s vision is to create a region rich in wildlife and appreciated by all. BBOWT manages 80 nature reserves across the three counties, works with other agencies and individuals to help safeguard the wider countryside, and aims to inspire people to take action for wildlife. BBOWT has over 52,000 members.
2. The Wildlife Trusts (TWT) wildlifetrusts.org
There are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK and the Isle of Man and Alderney. All are working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone. We have more than 800,000 members including 150,000 members of our junior branch Wildlife Watch. Our vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas. We manage around 2,300 nature reserves and every year we advise thousands of landowners and organisations on how to manage their land for wildlife. We also run marine conservation projects around the UK, collecting vital data on the state of our seas and celebrating our amazing marine wildlife. Every year we work with thousands of schools and our nature reserves and visitor centres receive millions of visitors. Each Wildlife Trust is working within its local communities to inspire people about the future of their area: their own Living Landscapes and Living Seas.
3. The Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Regulations 2004 implemented the EU Directive on the Assessment of Certain Plans and Programmes on the Environment (and is known as Directive 2001/42/EC). The main objective of the SEA directive is to '...provide for a high level of environmental protection and to contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of plans and programmes...' (Article 1 of the SEA Directive)
4. The EU Habitats Directive aims to protect the wild plants, animals and habitats that make up our diverse natural environment. The directive created a network of protected areas around the European Union of national and international importance. Protection Areas (SPAs) - support significant numbers of wild birds and their habitats. In the UK, the Habitats Directive is implemented by the Conservation of habitats and species regulations 2010 (SI no. 2010/490) more commonly known as the Habitats Regulations.
5. The groups concerned about the environment that have agreed to support the EC complaint letter from the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust are:
Staffordshire Wildlife Trust
Warwickshire Wildlife Trust
The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust
HS2 Action Alliance
Conserve the Chilterns and Countryside
The Chiltern Society
Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust
The environmental damage from HS2 is severe. The line runs through four nature reserves managed by Wildlife Trusts, protected habitats, local wildlife sites and the Chilterns Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A broad range of environmental groups in these areas are opposed to HS2.