Today is National Hedgehog Day, a day to celebrate this unique and iconic British species, which is in rapid decline across the UK. Today also marks the beginning of the very first stage of the works which are threatening the final refuge of the hedgehog in Central London, a refuge on our doorstep here at ZSL London Zoo.
As many of you may be aware, ZSL London Zoo has for the last year been leading a petition to the House of Lords, to appeal against the use of the Zoo’s car park as a lorry-holding area for the High Speed Rail (HS2) construction period.
Our petition, which asked that HS2 find an alternative site for this lorry park to protect the vulnerable hedgehog population who reside in the shrubbery borders of the car park, was sadly overruled by the House of Lords Select Committee in December.
Despite expert ecologists and conservationists identifying this land as a key habitat for the species, the House of Lords Select Committee’s Special Report claimed that the plight of the hedgehogs does not justify ‘what would be a major disruption to [HS2’s] plans’.
The bill for the creation of HS2 is now in its final stages, with those amendments that were suggested by the Lords being reviewed by the House of Commons, ahead of it receiving Royal Assent.
Today, 2 February, Thames Water begins its preliminary works ahead of their return later this month to re-route a water main in the car park, preparing the site for HS2 to set up their lorry holding area.
This work will involve some vegetation clearance as well as the first of Thames Water’s welcome mitigation measures to reduce their impact on the resident hedgehog population. They will be constructing a hedgehog-proof perimeter fence alongside the Prince Albert Road edge of the car park to prevent the movement of hedgehogs out onto the road, which is an increased risk once the full works begin.
Thames Water has been collaborative and receptive to our requests throughout this preparatory process and has demonstrated a genuine willingness to minimise their impact on the hedgehog population. Their ecologists, who have been trained by our own hedgehog experts, will be on site throughout the works, and the entire process is being accompanied by the Royal Parks Foundation, our collaborators on the annual hedgehog surveys.
By working closely with Thames Water, we have every confidence that these preparatory works are being carefully managed to minimise the impact on the hedgehog population. We’ve been pleased to see how they’ve taken on board suggestions made by the hedgehog ecologists, shared their thoughts with us, and even altered their plans on our request.
At present, however, we do not yet have the same assurances about HS2’s subsequent use of the land.
We intend to do all that we can to ensure that HS2 enforce similarly strict mitigation measures to give the hedgehogs a fighting chance, and hope that they will follow in Thames Water’s footsteps in showing an equal readiness to support our efforts to protect these iconic animals.
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