This comes as Natural England releases its review of HS2’s ‘No Net Loss to Biodiversity’ metric. This recommends the replacement of one hectare of ancient woodland with 30 hectares of new woodland – a key concern for the NFU given the potential impact on productive farmland.
NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “We’re acutely aware that as a result of HS2 there is some incredibly important biodiversity at risk. Our calls to HS2 and government reflect this and have been consistent from the outset. Habitat mitigation should be replaced on a like-for-like basis, with quality and location being the important factors to achieve no net loss of biodiversity.
“The recommendation made by Natural England today to HS2 on the surface has good intentions but the potential impact of this on farmland used to produce the nation’s food has clearly not been fully understood. It should be remembered that the UK is a net importer of food; policies that seek to take UK farmland out of production simply exacerbate that trend pressuring other parts of the world to feed us.
“Farmers impacted by the rail line are coming to terms with how they are going to continue running their businesses. Hundreds will have land taken for biodiversity replacement, construction and the line itself. We need to absolutely ensure that the location of habitat mitigation is fully considered. This may be on poorer land outside of the Bill limits, which will reduce the impact on the farming business and be far better in achieving better habitat.
“High quality farmland should not be used to create low quality habitat and exacerbate our need to import food at potentially higher cost to the environment, or woodlands, abroad.
“The produce from British farms is the bedrock of the UK’s food and drink industry – worth £108bn to the nation’s economy. Government must consider the impact on farms’ productivity, competitiveness and profitability when making important decisions, like the ones related to HS2. If not, the domino effect on the country’s wealth and health and environment could be a very negative one.”