Regular readers will know of my growing cynicism around certain conservation charities, especially the single-issue ones like the Woodland Trust who play fast and loose with facts and deliberately exaggerate and distort the effects of HS2 on the environment. These organisations are doing the wider environmental movement no favours at all. People like me should be their natural allies (and donors) but I find there’s now a growing list of them I won’t touch with a bargepole and certainly wouldn’t dream of helping financially. Here’s the latest.
Tomorrow, HS2 is due to take possession of land on the edges of the Calvert Jubilee nature reserve at Calvert, Buckinghamshire to begin the early stages of constructing HS2. The reserve is bordered by the former Great Central main line on the East and the route of East-West rail to the North.
Here was the reaction on Twitter of Estelle Bailey, Chief Exec of the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust who manage the site in response to unrelated news about the IPA…
“Destroy” the nature reserve? That sounds serious! There’s only one tiny problem, it’s complete cobblers, as looking at a (publicly available) design map of the area shows. Calvert Jubilee is at the bottom of the map (link here)
When challenged about her comments and on being shown the above map, this was Ms Bailey’s response.
A “heck of a chunk”? That’s emotive nonsense and hardly a recognised measurement! The map shows it’s also completely untrue. The HS2 line itself passes the edge of the reserve in a deep cutting to cut down on noise and where that edge is on the nature reserve side the cutting will be constructed of vertical piles to minimise land take. The real impact on the reserve is a small auto transformer feeder station and service road, along with a landscaped cutting to drop the existing road under the E-W railway line, plus a narrow road to allow access to the inverted siphon pipes connecting the existing lake with the new ponds on the opposite side of HS2. “Heck of a chunk” Give over!
Here’s how the area looks now on Google maps.
Notice that for the little bit of the reserve that’s taken there’s massive compensation for wildlife in the fact that the monoculture farmland to the right of the railway on Google maps becomes a huge area of new planting which is ringed by ponds, meaning there’s no net loss of biodiversity. Exactly the opposite!
Of course, this doesn’t stop some of the local Nimbys bemoaning what they say is ‘irreplaceable’ loss, but there’s several huge holes in this argument.
For a start, Calvert Jubilee is a brownfield site. It used to be a brickworks! Calvert brickworks was a massive undertaking and major employer that finally closed its doors in 1991. The website of the Great Moor sailing club which occupies one of the five former clay pits that’s now called Grebe lake contains the history of the site, mentioning that “Pit No.2 was formally opened as a nature reserve on 20th March 1978 by Sir Ralph Verney, a local landowner, and owner of the nearby Claydon House (now run by the National Trust). This 50-acre lake with surrounding 30 acres of land is now run by the Berks, Bucks, and Oxon Naturalist Trust”.
So, this 80 acre site has only existed as a nature reserve for just 42 years, in which time nature has completely reclaimed it – which says a lot about how resilient nature really is. Not bad considering some conservationists insist it’s ‘irreplaceable’ once gone – as it was when the clay pits were dug and the brickworks was in operation (from 1902 -1991). The work HS2 will be doing will be far more sensitively managed and the disturbance it will cause will heal a lot quicker – as we can see from the experiences of High Speed 1 in Kent and Essex.
It’s the doom-laden predictions of ecological disaster by conservationists opposed to Hs2 that really get my back up. Calvert has proved they’re nonsense once and it will do so again. It’s these predictions of disaster that do the conservation movements credibility no good at all. Yes, we should all do our best to ensure these projects have the best environmental mitigation possible, but when you get such dishonest claims bandied around, it really doesn’t help anyone. Here’s an example from Facebook posted by one of the locals.
The only catastrophe here is the use of language! They’ve seen the plans, they know the plans, yet they still peddle scaremongering like this. I’ve been critical of HS2 Ltd’s PR and public engagement policies in the past but I’m using these as example of what they’re up against. No mater how open and informative HS2 is, when you’re up against people who deliberately distort and exaggerate like this, you’re facing an uphill struggle – especially when one of these people is the Chief Executive of a charity who supposedly has a professional duty to tell the truth!
HS2 Ltd have countered this misinformation before. They’re quoted in response to yet more scaremongering in this article in the local Bucks Herald newspaper, where it turns out that the ‘heck of a chunk’ is actually just 20%, leaving 80% untouched!
Of course, there’s another irony here. The old railway line that Hs2 will be reusing at this point is the route of the former Great Central. The very line some of them tout as an ‘alternative’ to HS2 that should be reopened instead. Only they don’t seem that keen on the idea when it becomes a reality! Is there any finer example of hypocrisy?
Let’s see if tomorrows threatened protests actually materalise….
I’ve a favour to ask…
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