A REPORT from Cheshire Wildlife Trust accuses HS2’s nature impact assessments of being ‘amateurish’ and ‘riddled with inaccuracies’.

The trust’s claims to have uncovered evidence of eight times more nature loss than claimed by HS2 on just one section of the line between London and Crewe, going on to say the figure is a ‘best case scenario’, and could be 'far worse'. 

By cross-examining data, maps, and aerial photography, a team of experts have discovered ‘a staggering number of errors’, suggesting if proper scrutiny is not applied to HS2’s own nature impact assessments, ‘vast swathes of wildlife will be lost without proper compensation’ when the high-speed railway works move beyond Crewe.

The team's leader, Dr Rachel Giles, who is appearing on Radio Northwich this Friday, (April 14) to discuss the report’s findings, says so far, important sites for wildlife have been misidentified, such as streams being mapped as hedges and trees missed off plans altogether, with the total amounting to a staggering toll of losses for the countryside.  

Dr Giles said: “HS2 have claimed there will be no overall loss in nature between London and Crewe but the uncomfortable truth is they can’t replace something that they didn’t know was there in the first place.

“We’ve seen time and time again, important sites for wildlife just missed out or wrongly identified.

“Valuable wild spaces such as parks, old cemeteries and re-wilded sites are often not properly recognised. It means wildlife will suffer as a consequence of their amateurish mistakes.”

“Moreover, where is the scrutiny? It is alarming that our small regional charity is the only organisation that’s properly checked these calculations.

“On a large section of the line, we’ve found the amount of nature loss is likely to be at least eight times greater than what’s been claimed and that is a best-case scenario.

“In reality, it’s probably far worse than even we have imagined.”

The report highlights Swill Brook, just south of Crewe, a watercourse and well-known water vole site, that appears on HS2’s plans as a hedge.

Water voles are a nationally endangered species in rapid decline in Cheshire, and without specific protection of their few remaining households, are in real danger of disappearing from the county altogether.   

Dr Giles added: “It’s exasperating that a project of this scale is using such poor-quality data that’s riddled with inaccuracies.

“We must hold this multibillion-pound project to account otherwise nature will be paying the price.

“The Wildlife trusts are writing an open letter to the Government asking for the construction of HS2 to be paused until HS2 Ltd’s work reaches an acceptable standard.

“At the end of the day, if we don’t challenge them on these failures, who else will?”

A spokesman for HS2 Ltd told the PA news agency: “We don’t recognise the figures from the report nor do we believe them to be reliable.

“The Wildlife trusts have undertaken limited desk research and have not accessed huge areas of land for undertaking ecological survey, in contrast to the ecologists who have compiled HS2’s data.

“Independent experts from Natural England have consulted on our methodology and it has been rigorously assessed by a team of professional ecologists, with the data shared with the independent Ecological Review Group.

“We’re committed to reviewing our assessment methodology on an ongoing basis and intend to align more closely with the Government’s biodiversity metric once it is published in the coming months.

“As well as delivering the country’s largest environmental programme, planting seven million trees and creating more than 33 square kilometres of new habitats on Phase One alone, we continue to minimise loss through design refinements, such as our recent 30 per cent reduction of the impact on ancient woodlands on Phase One.”