HS2 threat to hedgehogs refusing to leave Regent’s Park car park
'We don’t know if they will use a tunnel - or what is the best design for that tunnel'
12 October, 2017 — By Tom Foot
One of the hedgehogs in Regent’s Park [Pic Penny Dixie]
HIGH Speed 2 railway works have begun near Regent’s Park, with animal experts warning that we will soon see dead animals as one of the city’s few colonies of hedgehogs is disturbed.
The London Zoo car park on the Outer Circle of Regent’s Park is being transformed into a depot for HS2 lorries. It is at the centre of a decades-old mystery as to why hedgehogs choose to live there.
Zoological director David Field said: “The beauty of that car park is that they like it for some reason. The thing that we just don’t know is why they choose the car park, instead of Regent’s Park. We asked for them [HS2] to give us some more time to find out why they are there – but that question is going to remain unanswered. This group of hedgehogs is of particular importance as it represents the last population of breeding hedgehogs in central London.”
The depot will be used as a lorry holding area for the Euston stretch of the £55.7billion railway line from London to Birmingham, and then cities in the north. The government’s flagship rail project is supported nationally by Conservatives and Labour, but has come up against fierce opposition in Camden, one of the areas along the route which will face the worst demolition and disruption. The project will not be finished until 2033.
Mr Field is concerned that the hedgehogs’ natural defence system – their spikes – will be no match for thundering noise and lung-busting pollution spewing from the hundreds of HS2 construction lorries that will use the car park each day.
Mr Field added: “The status quo has been working very well for them – I think it’s the careful balance between vehicles, people, hedgehogs and nature. I’m afraid this will be the end of the hedgehogs in that car park. Undoubtedly there will be some accidents, and it will disrupt the whole balance of ecology there. I’m afraid I predict more dead hedgehogs around the perimeter.”
Mr Field, who gave evidence to the House of Lords HS2 select committee, says it is a myth to think that hedgehogs would move away from the HS2 work, adding: “Hedgehogs don’t necessarily all hibernate in winter. They stay awake and are looking to feed. They are not all Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.”
HS2 has said it will encourage the hedgehogs to move into Regent’s Park via a tunnel, but Mr Field said: “We don’t know if they will use a tunnel. Or what is the best design for that tunnel. We haven’t trialled the best style for a tunnel.”
An HS2 spokesperson said: “Thames Water are currently on site carrying out essential preparatory work. During this time, their work site will be hoarded off from the surrounding habitats to ensure that hedgehogs and other wildlife are protected. “In addition, wildlife corridors will be established around the site, hedgehog nest boxes provided and we will continue to work with the Royal Parks and ZSL to plan similar measures to protect local wildlife while the lorry holding area is in use.”