Reindeer at the Blithbury Reindeer Lodge are under threat from the proposed HS2 route
Reindeer at the Blithbury Reindeer Lodge are under threat from the proposed HS2 routeBlithbury Reindeer Lodge

The owner of a Staffordshire Reindeer farm said the proposed route of the HS2 rail project could force him to close the business and put down the 200-strong herd.

Blithbury Reindeer Lodge bills itself as "home to England's largest working Reindeer herd" and is a popular attraction at Christmas, when it hires out the cattle to fairs and festive markets.

But owner Stephen Swinnerton said that proposals for the high-speed railway will cut through the 30-acre site.

The £56bn London-to-Leeds high-speed rail project has plans for railroad tracks, a turning area and a pond on the land, according to the group's latest environmental impact assessment report.

But Swinnerton, who has bred reindeer for more than 25 years, said these proposals mean the farm will lose five grazing fields, leaving the herd unable to feed itself.

He has written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, HS2 and other planning bodies urging them to shift the works elsewhere.

"The potential loss of land would be critical to the future," he told local newspaper the Sentinel. "The livestock use all the paddock land we currently own and the paddocks are grazed in rotation."

He added: "We are unable to consider re-locating as a viable option. This would mean not only re-locating the lodge, but relocating my home, my farm and all the livestock. We'd also would have to re-establish our brand, which many people have worked so hard to create, develop and maintain over the years."

He warned the Birmingham Mail: "The government, its representatives, the select committee, the Minister for Transport and HS2 would ultimately therefore be responsible for the euthanasia of over 200 healthy reindeer."

The farm opens to the public for special events throughout the year, and regularly hosts school visits. Swinnerton added that this Christmas the farm has booked in families coming to visit from all over the world, including the US, Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam.

An HS2 spokesperson said: "HS2 will re-balance the economy by connecting eight out of our ten biggest cities, increase rail capacity on the current system and reduce journey times, while also creating thousands of jobs across the UK.

"We recognise that people will be concerned about the impacts of construction, and we continue to engage with people and businesses to look at the how we minimise impacts as we progress to the next stage of design.

"We have met with representatives from Blithbury Reindeer Lodge to look at the impacts on their business and to discuss the possible solutions."

HS2 is expected to create around 16,000 jobs with the first trains set to run in 2026. The high-speed line will carry up to 300,000 passengers a day, freeing up thousands of seats on local services.