The Junction 9 scheme, proposed by Highways England, will destroy and further fragment important protected habitats in Winnall Moors Nature Reserve and cause local declines in wildlife. Mitigation plans are extremely limited and lack any ambition to make the project a net gain for nature. They also fail to address the legacy of damage from the creation of the M3 at Twyford Down, one of the most controversial road schemes in English history.
Debbie Tann, Chief Executive of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said:
“We are incredibly frustrated that these plans are being put forward. The proposals represent a regressive approach to development. A continuation of a road-building philosophy that is unconcerned by the obligation to prevent harm and misses opportunities to make restitution for previous damages. This scheme forgoes any credible attempt to achieve the biodiversity net-gain that any responsible developer must put front and centre and represents a colossal failure of ambition and responsibility to achieve development that builds sympathetically with nature.”
The landscape around Winchester is already severely fragmented by the road network. The motorway construction in the early 90s cut a vital link between the South Downs and nature reserves and green space in Winchester, severely impacting wildlife and people. The damage has never been adequately addressed and is now at risk of being compounded.
Highways England must be held accountable for their damaging projects this time around. They must ensure that there is a real and tangible net gain for nature in their current scheme, which should boost wildlife populations and contribute to the local nature recovery network. Nothing short of major investment in nature’s recovery will measure up. The Trust, and others, have put forward proposals for ambitious mitigation, which would deliver the needed net gains for nature. It is unacceptable that our concerns have been ignored.
The current proposals will also reduce the land safeguarded in the Trust’s Winnall Moors Nature Reserve, shaving off the northern corner of the protected site. Winnall Moors is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), containing some of the last remnants of high-quality fen grassland in Hampshire. The nature reserve is home to rare and notable wildlife, including kingfishers, grey wagtails, otters and water voles. The development would fragment habitats and sever the corridors wildlife use to travel between the nature reserves and neighbouring meadow habitats.
One of the key aspects of mitigation should be the creation of a green bridge across the motorway. This would reunite habitats that became disconnected by the M3 and give wildlife a way to cross into the South Downs National Park from the Winchester area.
The Trust is calling on Highways England to rethink the plans. They must instead create a nature-positive project, which paves the way for forward-thinking developments and a wilder future in our county and nationally.
We are encouraging Trust supporters and members of the public to write and express their concerns through the Highways England consultation. The Trust's full response can be found below, and we have provided template answers for the consultation questions - follow the link below and scroll to the end of the blog.