Friday, 14 October 2016

HS2 Route threatens ancient woodlands

Photo: WTML
As if the much-despised plans to frack Lancashire weren't bad enough in the government's bid to industrialise our countryside, the ridiculously-expensive HS2 train line looks to threaten the future of some of the North West's ancient and much-loved woodlands, quite apart from the disruption it threatens to communities along the planned, contested route.

The Woodland Trust have several long term campaigns they’ve been working on for a number of years. High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) is one such case and it consistently goes back and forth. Committees, hearing of evidence, petitioning, discussions, meetings and it goes on.

"Whilst generally supportive of green transport measures we are yet to be convinced that this proposed rail route by the Government is as green as it claims," say the Trust, who are heavily involved in lobbying to ensure the best possible deal for ancient woodland but with 98 ancient woods under threat, it’s an uphill battle.

"We echo many people's concerns over HS2's potential environmental impact. Our primary worry is the high level of damage to ancient woodland along the route."

36 ancient woodlands will be affected by Phase One of HS2 alone. Image: Woodland Trust

Phase one of HS2 intends to link London and Birmingham. 36 ancient woods will be directly affected with a further 27 at risk of secondary effects such as disturbance, noise and pollution.

Phase two will form a 'Y', running from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester. The initial proposal incorporated a stop at Meadowhall outside Sheffield. With this proposal 14 ancient woods would face the threat of destruction with a further 21 exposed to secondary effects.

The latest development is a new consultation on the draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for Phase 2a of the HS2 project. This phase stretches from Fradley in the West Midlands to Crewe which is around 60km (37 miles) of train line. Just like Phase 1 it has become apparent that this line will have direct impacts on ancient woodland.

The Woodland Trust campaign team is currently looking through the consultation to see exactly what the impacts are. The consultation closes on 7th November 2016 and the final EIA report is expected November 2017 (which will also be open to consultation).

An announcement on the preferred route of Phase 2b, which is the remainder of the Y-shaped route, is expected in late autumn.

The Trust are still waiting for the publication of the Natural England review of HS2 Ltd.'s 'no net loss of biodiversity' calculations. It was expected at the end of July.

"We plan to give evidence before the House of Lords select committee on this," say the Trust. "However, this is impossible until we see this report, as the inclusion on ancient woodland in this calculation is one of our major objections to the proposed scheme. We’re lobbying hard to see this report published."

More about the work of the Woodland Trust

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