A Parliamentary row over the impact of the proposed High Speed 2 project on the environment has escalated.
The Environmental Audit Committee today described as “disappointing” the government’s refusal to use the £43bn scheme to improve overall biodiversity.
The cross-party panel of MPs had called for the government to commit to a higher target than its aim to offset loss of biodiversity from the works.
Joan Walley MP, chair of the committee, said: “Opinion is divided on the merits or otherwise of HS2. But everyone should be united in wanting the environmental impacts of the railway to be avoided or minimised as much as possible.
“It is disappointing that the government will settle for no overall biodiversity loss, when it could use the enormous budget for the scheme to provide more gains than losses for the environment. That is a wasted opportunity.”
The government said in its official response to an earlier EAC report that it felt its ambition to avoid net loss to biodiversity was appropriate.
“In its evidence to the EAC, Defra acknowledged that the objective of seeking no net loss to biodiversity is very challenging for a major infrastructure project such as HS2 and that this aim is as ambitious as for any similar infrastructure project worldwide,” said the response.
The Department for Transport last month insisted it remained on track to start work on HS2 in 2017.