HS2 changing access route to reduce damage to the environment
Demolition work going on at the HS2 Old Oak Common site. Picture: Darren Pepe
Rare lizards and birds are among species on Wormwood Scrubs that locals have been campaigning to protect from the construction of an HS2 access route.
But Hammersmith and Fulham Council is working with the rail company on 11th hour plans to create an alternative route for trucks and diggers that will cause less harm to the habitats.
The route will allow workers to dig up and realign an underground sewer system that runs to where the new Old Oak Common railway station will be built.
HS2 will run from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and cut journeys by 30 minutes. Its estimated price tag of more than £80 billion has seen it labelled a “white elephant”, while many areas of countryside will be carved up with new tracks and tunnels dug through hills.
HS2 already has statutory permission to start the route from Braybrook Street in East Acton – beside residents’ homes.
But a council report reveals that HS2 chiefs have agreed on a new idea of creating a shorter route via Old Oak Common Lane, which crosses the very north-west corner of the Scrubs.
The Old Oak Common Lane route is preferred over the Braybrook Street option because it will avoid felling trees, and smaller amounts of vegetation would be cleared.
The two proposed access routes through Wormwood Scrubs - outlined in green. Image is a screengrab from a Hammersmith and Fulham Council report
In any event, both routes will require picking up little brown Zootoca Viviparous lizards “by hand” and “translocating” them to safer parts of the Scrubs.
The report said the reptiles are found “throughout the Scrubs, but historically have been largely recorded on the northern embankment”.
The new access route could be built from mid-March. This is the very beginning of the bird nesting season which lasts until October.
Some 19 bird species, including long-tailed tits and kestrels, breed and nest on the Scrubs, the report said. Over 200 species of bugs and insects were recorded including four “nationally rare” species.
Shepherd’s Bush resident Sarah Johnson, a trustee of the Friends of Wormwood Scrubs group, said: “We’re really pleased. It’s a victory.
“We have no idea how many small charities have managed to get HS2 to change their plans, but I bet it’s not many.”
She added: “It’s a really valuable green space and it’s a shame this needs to happen at all. It’s like a local piece of countryside.”
Wormwood Scrubs. Picture: Emma McAdie
On December 15, the Wormwood Scrubs Charitable Trust Committee, the council-funded entity which runs the Scrubs, gave consent to the Old Oak Common Lane plan.
Chair of the Trust, councillor Alexandra Sanderson, said: “We are all committed to protecting and promoting the interests of local residents, the users and the wonderful biodiversity of the Scrubs.
“HS2 may want to get on with its works but we remain determined to minimise its disruptive effect on people and nature. That’s why we support the alternative access route to the Scrubs. We will do all in our power to secure this and hope it will be agreed soon.”
Before the new route can be agreed, a planning application has to be approved by the Old Oak Park Royal Development Corporation – a planning body set up by former London Mayor Boris Johnson to regenerate the largely industrial area of north west London.
Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter
December 18, 2020