Woodland Trust – HS2 Phase 2: more ancient woods threatened
Analysis by the Woodland Trust of route proposals for Phase 2a and 2b of HS2 shows that the northern section of the route will impact a minimum of 24 irreplaceable ancient woods. Phase 1 of the controversial high speed line was granted Royal Assent in February with a final total of 63 ancient woods condemned to suffer loss or damage.
On Phase 2 the Trust estimates that 11 woods are threatened with direct loss if the current proposed route goes ahead. A further 13 are close enough to be threatened by damaging secondary effects including noise, dust and lighting. Examples include Hancock’s Bank near Altrincham, and Coroners Wood near Partington, both in Cheshire, New Farm Wood near Bulwell in Nottinghamshire and Whitmore Wood, Whitmore Heath in Staffordshire. All are carpeted with bluebells at this time of year.
A number of woods that could be ancient but do not appear yet on Natural England’s Ancient Woodland Inventory have also been identified – some by HS2 Ltd, others by the Woodland Trust. As evidence is gathered and the status of these woods is confirmed, it’s likely that the number of threatened ancient woods will increase.
Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust chief executive, said: “Any loss or damage to ancient woodland is a disaster for the natural environment, particularly when you consider how little we have left. Just 2% of the UK’s land area is made up of these precious and irreplaceable habitats, so for large infrastructure projects like HS2 to be riding roughshod over them, rather than setting an example to avoid them, is totally unacceptable.
“With the trail of destruction HS2 Ltd will cause to ancient woodland, it will never be able to call this project ‘green’ – so far, it’s been an absolute disgrace.
“HS2 Ltd will say it’s planting millions of trees along the route – that’s all well and good, but no amount of new trees can ever recreate ancient woodland.”
Decisions around route alterations, the width of the track cutting (which varies), road building for vehicle access, or noise and disturbance – first from construction and later from trains travelling at up to 250mph several times a day – could all make a difference to the impact on ancient woods – experience from Phase 1 shows that figures and woods affected will fluctuate and change throughout the process.
On Nov 30, 2015, Government announced the prioritisation of Phase 2a. It will extend Phase 1 from the West Midlands to Crewe (40miles/64kms). The Environmental Impact Assessment for Phase 2a is expected in July 2017. A consultation on the current route refinement for Phase 2b (from Birmingham to Leeds/ Ulleskelf – 123miles/198kms and Crewe to Bamfurlong/ Manchester Piccadilly – 51miles/82kms) ended on March 9, 2017. We expect a route to be finalised by the end of 2017. A draft EIA should follow in 2018/19.
The Trust has campaigned to save ancient woodland from HS2 since details of Phase 1 were first released in 2011.
Maps of the route can be found here: