As many as 500 wildlife sites have been put at risk by plans to build a high speed rail line through the South East.
Wildlife Trusts have proposed that the HS2 scheme could destroy more wildlife habitats than it will replace.
A report by the Trusts, who oppose HS2, called on the Government to back the creation of a ribbon of natural areas running the length of the route to protect and restore the countryside and communities, if the project goes ahead.
The Wildlife Trusts director of England, Stephen Trotter, said: "Currently, people and nature stand to lose if HS2 goes ahead which is why our opposition to the proposed route for HS2 remains. Like other affected groups we will be petitioning against it."
Some 150 existing and 43 proposed local wildlife sites would be affected, including 43 ancient woods and nine Wildlife Trust nature reserves.
Alternative plans to the controversial High Speed Two plan will be revealed by councils and MPs today in Buckinghamshire.
It is thought that instead of building HS2 through the Chilterns, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a report suggesting tunnelling underneath the countryside could be an option.
It has also been reported that around 500 wildlife sites will be affected by the development of HS2.
Estimates by the Wildlife Trust suggests the proposals will damage and destroy more wildlife habitats and populations of wild species than it will take steps to replace.
The Government has announced a £600 million compensation scheme for homes and businesses affected by the new HS2 rail line that will pass through Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.
The Government insists it is one of the most generous packages of its kind. It has been revealed that 532 properties and businesses will be demolished. Residents have already reacted saying the plan is "an insult."
Those living within 60 metres of the line will get the full value of the property and 10 per cent on top - up to £47,000 maximum.
Those between 60-120 metres will be able to get the market rate of their properties or a cash payment of between £30,000 and £100,000 if they decide to stay put.
And for people living 120 and 300 metres from the route there will be compensation payments of between £7,500 and £22,500.
Our Transport Correspondent Mike Pearse has been gauging the public reaction to today's announcement.
The government have published a new and improved range of compensation schemes for those that could be affected by the proposed HS2 rail route.
Having listened to feedback and suggestions, measures for property owners and occupiers along the route have been examined and revised.
The Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:
I completely understand the concerns and anxieties of those living near the line and it is only right that those people are properly looked after.
I believe this package of compensation and assistance will enable us to help people more. But I want to get it absolutely right, so I am asking for further views on some aspects before we finalise the plans.
HS2 will transform many people’s lives for the better, but where its impacts are less positive we will do all we can to provide the right help and assistance.
A summary of the new and improved compensation and assistance schemes that could help residents affected by HS2.Read the full story ›
Green groups are backing plans for better safeguards to minimise environmental impacts that could be caused by HS2.
It comes after the Environmental Audit Committee put forward a report saying that as much as possible needs to be done to lessen the damage on the countryside if HS2 goes ahead.
Ralph Smyth, the Campaign to Protect Rural England's senior transport campaigner said:
We have been calling for environmental funding to be ring-fenced in HS2's budget since 2011 and it's disappointing that the Government has been unwilling to take this forward. We are pleased that MP's are supporting our call. With Parliament set to vote on HS2 later this month, the Department for Transport will need to come up with an adequate response quickly if it wants to keep the project on track.
Many improvements to HS2's route and improvements to environmental protection, such as more tunnelling and putting transmission lines under ground to protect the landscape, and more noise barriers to protect rural tranquillity, have been refused by HS2 Ltd on the basis of their cost. But the company refused to answer CPRE's requests for information about costs, telling us it would be 'manifestly unreasonable' to respond. It is heartening that MP's have come to our aid by saying it should be up to Parliament, not HS2 Ltd, to say what is and isn't reasonable.
Better safeguards are needed if environmental impacts of the proposed HS2 rail route are to be minimised, according to the Environmental Audit Committee.
It wants Parliament, in its capacity as the planning authority, to ensure everything possible is done to lessen the damage on the countryside.
Chair of the Committe, Joan Walley MP said:
*The Government needs to show real commitment to dealing with the impact that HS2 will have on our countryside and wildlife. Ancient woodlands and other hard to replace sites of natural value should not be subordinated to crude economic calculations of cost and benefit. It is imperative that an infrastructure project on such a large scale implements proper environmental safeguards and ensures that impacts are minimised. This means adopting stringent, enforceable standards and setting aside adequate funding. *
The HS2 Hybrid Bill will be given its second reading on the 28th April, after which it will be referred to a dedicated select committee to examine 'petitions' against it.
There have been concerns that premium fares will be charged for those using the new high-speed line whose first phase, from London to Birmingham, is due to open in 2026.
Passengers travelling on domestic services using HS1, the 186mph Channel Tunnel fast link, pay much higher fares than those using "conventional" Kent commuter services.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said "setting fares at the right level" was one of its five key priorities for HS2.
Legislation for the first phase is currently going through Parliament, with a second, Y-shaped, phase, taking the line to north west and north east England due to be completed around 2032/33.
Local MP David Lidington has submitted a 15,000 word response to the HS2 Environmental Statement consultation which closed last week. David response reflects his own views as well as those expressed to him by individual constituents, local action groups and Parish Councils.
David also held meetings with HS2 Ltd and the Secretary of State for Transport to discuss the Environmental Statement before submitting his response.
In his response David calls for:
- Improved mitigation measures at Wendover Dean and Dunsmore to mitigate the impact of the proposed 18m high viaduct.
- HS2 Ltd to urgently resolve the outstanding noise impact on St Mary’s Church in Wendover.
- Increased tunnelling in the Chilterns AONB but with local agreement on the location of any tunnel portal north of Wendover.
- Additional mitigation measures to ensure that the residents of Stoke Mandeville and the Hawkslade estate in Aylesbury do not experience any significant noise impact from HS2
- The mitigation measures for Fairford Leys to be in keeping with the local area and have local support.
My response to the Environmental Statement consultation reflects my own views as well as those expressed to me by my constituents. I hope the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd take note of the views expressed in responses to the consultation and commit to making changes to the design of scheme to reflect the views of those most affected by HS2."
The construction of the High Speed 2 rail line will completely destroy the livelihoods of farmers, according to the union that represents them.
The National Farmers' Union says there are 23 farms along the proposed route in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire which would be seriously affected.
The government says farmers will be compensated - but landowners say the fields left behind would be un-useable. Our Transport Correspondent Mike Pearse reports.