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Incomplete, inadequate and of a poor standard- must do better: The damning verdict on the HS2 Environmental Statement (ES) produced by HS2 Ltd.

16 January 2014

Nationally important populations of one of the UK’s rarest mammals, the Bechstein’s bat, will be significantly impacted by the development. Yet HS2 Ltd has shocked the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) and other conservation groups with its ‘shoddy’ Environmental Statement.

In some instances it is clear that affected areas of the proposed route have not been surveyed at all or in other instances that insufficient survey effort and at times inappropriate survey techniques have been employed.

BCT is concerned that irreplaceable ancient woodland will be lost.

HS2 Ltd. states that ‘compensatory planting will mitigate for the loss’. This is misleading in a number of ways. Most importantly, it falsely suggests that a complex habitat such as ancient woodland can be simply recreated. Such compensation is not appropriate for irreplaceable habitats.

Dr Carol Williams, Director of Conservation, Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) said: “We are concerned at the inadequate standard of surveying that supports this Environmental Statement. Also of concern is the interpretation of the survey findings into flawed proposals to negate impacts. This is particularly evident when considering the losses of ancient woodland. On such a major project, with equally major potential ramifications for bats and other wildlife it is vital that high professional standards are maintained. We are shocked by this Environmental Statement.”

Bechstein’s bats, colonies of which are found along the proposed route are one of the UK’s rarest mammals, found in woodland in the south of England and Wales. The destruction of ancient mature forests along with intensive woodland management practices has placed massive pressure on this rare species.

Until recently very little was known about Bechstein’s bats in the UK - in 2005 there were just six known breeding populations. BCT recently undertook a 4 year survey of these rare bats. Studies have shown that foraging occurs close to the roosting site, with bats rarely flying more than 1.5km between roost and feeding site. 

A large population of Bechstein’s bats has been found in the Bernwood Forest area. This area includes ancient Sheephouse Wood, Buckinghamshire, that will be affected by the HS2 route, and is rich in ancient woodlands, meadows and hedgerows used by the bats and other native creatures.  

Bernwood Forest Bechstein’s Project (part of the North Bucks Bat Group) working with BCT have been astonished to find breeding colonies of Bechstein’s bat either side of the proposed HS2 line using the whole landscape of ancient meadows, farmland and hedgerow trees as well as the significant  ancient semi-natural woodlands. North Bucks Bat Group are “very concerned about the potential impacts of severing the connection between this ancient wooded landscape and its impacts on populations of the rare Bechstein’s and other bat species found in the area”.

BCT is concerned that the mitigation measures proposed by HS2 Ltd around the track at this point to mitigate the impact on commuting and foraging bats have not been adequately tested and therefore the likelihood of success is very uncertain.

Other organisations are also concerned

BCT is not alone, The Woodland Trust are also astonished over the apparent lack of rigour in the Environmental statement:

Woodland Trust Ecologist, Luci Ryan said:  “The 50,000-page document does not contain a complete map of the route, utilities or construction areas and HS2 Ltd are not able to tell us when this will be available. How can HS2 Ltd publish an Environmental Statement without completing all the surveys? The document raises more questions than it answers and betrays a shocking disregard for ancient woodland and the rare and protected species that depend on it. Some of the proposed mitigation measures make no sense, are untested, and could even cause further damage.”

See a fuller outline of BCT’s initial response to the Environmental Statement  

More on Bechstein’s 

Natural England's pages 

For further information and images of Bechstein’s bats: Abi McLoughlin, Press officer. E-mail: amcloughlin@bats.org.uk Office: 0207 8207183 For information from The Woodland Trust please contact Alison Kirkman: AlisonKirkman@woodlandtrust.org.uk

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