Environmental groups challenge HS2 via EU

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.

Ends

Further information

Wendy Tobitt, Media & Campaigns Manager, Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust

Tel: 01865 788318 and 07748 641452

Email:  wendytobitt@bbowt.org.uk for photographs of wildlife and habitats at risk because of HS2