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BBC proposal to axe Snettisham-based Chris Packham Autumnwatch show & HS2 worry Turnstone: Lynn News column

Turnstone by John Maiden

Recently it was the BBC's plans for local radio that gave me cause for concern, now I am worried by its proposal to axe the highly popular 'Autumnwatch' programmes on TV.

An email from Marion Veal (at Change.org) explained the situation as follows: "The press release announcing the cancellation of 'Autumnwatch' infers it has the least impact of all the Watches. Currently 106,000 plus people have signed the petition.

HS2 demo
HS2 demo

"I don't call that low impact. How did Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance (the hunting, shooting, fishing organisation) get to be the only one to have a comment in the press, in the BBC cancellation article, on the very day it was announced?

"How did he know about the cancellation before it was in the papers? And what has it got to do with his organisation anyway? Why was he asked about it? Why no one else?"

I will certainly be seeking answers to these questions, but while criticising the BBC on the Autumn debacle, its treatment of another closely related topic was well done, although it should have been given greater prominence on tv.

Well illustrated coverage on BBC News, by rural affairs correspondent Claire Marshall, revealed that according to a carefully researched report, based on an investigation that took a year to complete, the company building the controversial HS2 rail line has seriously underestimated its impact on habitats and wildlife. The report by the Wildlife Trusts found that HS2 Ltd has missed trees, ponds and hedgerows off maps. It said the methodology used to calculate the impact of the project on biodiversity was "fundamentally flawed".

The trusts are calling for construction to be paused and for the government to require HS2 Ltd to re-evaluate the impact construction has on nature. In addition to the catalogue of errors when assessing the pre-existing nature, this audit found that HS2 Ltd's metric (its 'accounting tool' for assessing impacts on nature) is untested, out of date and fundamentally flawed."

The trusts' report said that mature hedgerows, which "provide berries, shelter and nesting places for wildlife" had been given "a lower nature value than the new hedgerows" which HS2 Ltd would plant. It said some watercourses, ponds and trees had been "missed out of the data".

Using HS2 Ltd's data where possible, the report found that Phase One, which covers 140 miles of track between London and the West Midlands, would cause almost eight times "more nature loss" than accounted for by HS2 Ltd's calculations...

Tom Oliver, professor of applied ecology at the University of Reading, told the BBC that the report was 'hugely worrying". He said that the methodology HS2 Ltd was using was "ten years out of date" and that the organisation was "marking its own homework"...

This reminds me of the day David Jones and I attended a meeting called by Henry Bellingham MP with Penny Mordaunt MP, in her capacity as coastal communities minister, at which we discussed the best way to rid Hunstanton of a 'monstrous carbuncle' situated in its unique Conservation Area. Afterwards Henry invited us to observe a Select Committee meeting concerned with the proposed route of HS2. Listening to evidence from people whose lives would be made unbearable by this quite unnecessary vanity project, was enough to convince me that money earmarked for HS2 would be better spent on restoring lost railways, including the Lynn to Hunstanton line!

The government should now come clean and admit that HS2 would be disastrous for people and biodiversity along the proposed route, which should now be replanted and used as a green transport corridor for pedestrians and cyclists.

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