HS2 Phase One and 2a will destroy about 1% of England’s National Priority Habitat Lowland Meadow and there will be more destroyed when figures for Phase 2b are confirmed. That’s 80 ha (the second information request, when I basically asked “are you really sure about those figures?”, said 79.8 ha) and the national estimate for the Priority Habitat is around 8000* ha.
Yes, they are going to create** some new Lowland Meadow as mitigation. As far as I can make out it will be 165 ha at Phase One and the rather vague 478.8ha of “habitats of principal importance” “which will include mainly lowland mixed deciduous woodland and lowland meadow.” for Phase 2a apparently following Ecological Principles of Mitigation (EPoM), although both the links given in answers to my questions are to survey methods. They did refuse to commit to best practice for the habitat creation on the grounds of cost “Where reasonable and worthwhile to do so, the collection of seed and/or plants from suitable donor sites will be considered.” (best practice is to use seed/plants from the habitat that is to be destroyed in order to conserve local genetic diversity) and yet when I asked how much money had been set aside “It is not currently possible to provide a ring-fenced figure for ecological habitat creation, monitoring and maintenance. HS2 has been designed, and therefore costed, as an integrated railway, of which ‘environment’ is not seen as an ‘add on’.” <puzzled, thinking-person scratching-their-head emoji>
Natural England and Defra have presumably agreed to this approach. After a bit of internet searching I found there is an “independent Ecology Review Group (ERG)” although I can’t find any contact details…so if anyone knows, then please pass the info on and I’ll check with them when I have time. I’d be particularly interested if they are taking into account the new SSSI guidelines for Lowland Grassland because obviously for something as prestigious as HS2 they will want to be using the latest ecological information. Obviously.
*”…between 7, 282 ha which is cited in the UK BAP targets from 2006 archived on the JNCC website and English Nature Research Report 2000 ‘Monitoring the condition of lowland grassland SSSIs’ No. 315 gives a similar estimate of lowland meadows of 8,400 ha” – pers. comm. Request for information from Defra – Ref: TO2018/07235. So I took 8000 ha as a round number, but basically Defra do not know and haven’t mapped or surveyed it all and that means Natural England don’t know either: See https://theintermingledpot.wordpress.com/2018/04/26/estimates/
** do bear in mind that new habitat is not the same as old habitat for Lowland Meadow. Most examples of Lowland Meadow are likely to be Ancient Grasslands see https://theintermingledpot.wordpress.com/2017/09/27/defining-ancient-grassland/
Broadly, all Lowland Meadow over 0.5 ha in extent is now defined as being of SSSI quality, see https://theintermingledpot.wordpress.com/2018/02/25/all-examples-of-mg5-over-0-5-ha-can-now-be-designated-as-sites-of-special-scientific-interest-sssi-so-why-hasnt-that-happened/
Info. on what constitutes a Lowland Meadow is downloadable from here http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-5706
To give you an example of how difficult it is to get a clear answer when asking questions about specific environmental matters; my question (from my second information request from HS2) is in bold below and the answer is given afterwards…
“My understanding regarding the extent of destruction during the creation of HS2 of the National Priority Habitat Lowland Meadow puts it (80 ha) at nearer 1% of the English total (between 7, 282 ha which is cited in the UK BAP targets from 2006 archived on the JNCC website and English Nature Research Report 2000 ‘Monitoring the condition of lowland grassland SSSIs’ No. 315 gives a similar estimate of lowland meadows of 8,400 ha – pers. comm. “Request for information – Ref: TO2018/07235”) – can you please check and confirm this information of the destruction being at around 1%? I presume that total amount destroyed will be greater when the data for Phase 2b are known.”
“Route-wide combined impacts from Phase One, Phase 2a and Phase 2b are stated in Volume 3 of the Phase 2a Supplementary Environmental Statement and Additional Provision Environmental Statement. Habitats of principal importance directly affected are reported as the number of distinct areas of habitat of principal importance that are within, or partially within, the land required for the Phase One and Phase 2a AP revised scheme. This is reported as 124 instances combined, noting that there are currently no figures provided for Phase 2b.”
Links to those scoping and survey documents I mentioned are below though I can’t find anything about the mitigation except a short slide show to the CIEEM.
- Phase One Scope and Methodology Addendum (CT-001-00/2)
- Phase 2a Scope and Methodology Addendum (CT- 001-002) Part 1 –
This is a short blog because I’m busy at the moment, but if you want to follow it up:
From HS2, the information requests I made have the reference numbers FOI18-2056 and FOI18-2072
and from Defra the Request for information – Ref: TO2018/07235