HS2 reaches 700,000 planted trees milestone

700,000 trees and over 100 wildlife sites have been shaped along the route between the West Midlands and London, HS2 and its environmental contractors announced on Monday (5 July), as part of their Green Corridor Prospectus. HS2’s Green Corridor is the largest single environmental project in the UK. The ambitious ecology plan consists of providing habitats for local wildlife and protected species, such as new badger setts, bat houses, bird boxes and bug houses, in the hopes of minimising the environmental impact of HS2 Ltd.

On top of this, plans include wildflower seeding, aquatic habitat creation and the reintroduction of native flora to encourage local wildlife populations to thrive, whilst also creating jobs and providing opportunities to any that live along the line. The wildlife sites are made up of a variety of different habitats, ranging from grasslands to woodlands, scrub to ponds, and many of the sites were already home to various wildlife such as birds, badgers, barn owls, dragonflies and butterflies. CEO of HS2 Ltd, Mark Thurston, explained in the plan: “By providing a cleaner, greener way to travel, HS2 will help cut the number of cars and lorries on our congested roads, cut demand for domestic flights, and help the country’s push to reduce carbon emissions.”

“All of this will support the UK’s transition to net zero by 2050 and improve the quality of the air we breathe.” Eventually, up to 7 million trees are to be planted along the line and HS2 will leave behind more than 33 square kilometres of new woodland, wildlife and river habitats – the equivalent of 23 new Hyde Parks lining the spine of the country. HS2’s Woodland Fund has also allocated over ?1.2m as part of a grant scheme managed by the Forestry Commission, with 213,000 trees having already been planted, alongside almost 100 hectares of new woodland creation and over 50 hectares of ancient woodland restoration.

In the future, the fund could also support an extra 440 hectares of new native woodland creation on top of restoring another 245 hectares of existing ancient woodland sites. HS2’s Head of Natural Environment, Mark Bailey, said: “We aim to leave behind habitats that can sustain healthy populations of UK flora and fauna, creating a network of bigger, better-connected climate resilient habitats and new green spaces for people to enjoy.” “These new sites across Phase One show how the project is already improving landscapes around the new railway, ensuring HS2 protects the UK’s precious biodiversity.”

Every habitat site has been carefully tailored to support local biodiversity, to help link existing wildlife habitats and create ecological networks to encourage species to move through the landscape, whilst protecting, maintaining and enhancing the current biodiversity.