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03.02.16

HS2 accused of errors in assessing impact on 63 ancient woods

The Woodland Trust has accused HS2 Ltd of multiple errors in its assessment of the impact of the new high-speed railway on 63 ancient woods.

The Trust, which gave evidence before HS2 Select Committee today, said HS2 had manipulated calculations aiming to prove it can build the rail line without a net loss of biodiversity.

However, HS2 has said that its approach to ancient woodland is consistent with Natural England guidance.

The Trust said HS2 has attempted give a lower quality rating to ancient woods, which goes against government guidance.  

It adds that HS2 Ltd had offered no explanation for how it had calculated the number of trees that it states should be planted for trees lost, or legally binding promises for monitoring the effectiveness of environmental compensation.

 hs2-evidence-map

Luci Ryan, an ecologist at the Woodland Trust, said: “Despite years of meetings, lobbying, groundwork, research and reams of paperwork provided by the Woodland Trust to HS2 Ltd, they have not only failed to rectify errors in relation to ancient woodland, but even to fully admit them.

“Instead, they’re attempting to disguise the irrevocable loss and damage this irreplaceable habitat will suffer, misleading the government, the Select Committee and the public. In doing so, it could set dangerous precedents that put ancient woodland at even greater risk in future.”

Richard Pain, a spokesman for HS2 Ltd, said: “HS2 will build on best practice for environmental protection and we remain committed to our goal of seeking no net loss to biodiversity.

“Wherever possible we have avoided ancient woodland when planning the route of the railway. A number of changes to protect ancient woodland have been made, including an extension to the Chilterns tunnel which means a further 9.2 hectares will no longer be lost.

“Our approach to ancient woodland is consistent with Natural England guidance and we have committed to creating new wooded areas, which will be managed and monitored for up to 50 years.

He added that an external ecology review group, including the Woodland Trust, will oversee monitoring results and make recommendations to ensure their ecological commitments are met.

Comments

Chris M   05/02/2016 at 02:53

The printed Woodland Trust poster says a lot about the motivation of this body. Of course you would expect them to be unhappy with a proposal to build almost anything in a rural environment. They are clearly trying to obtain the maximum concessions out of HS2 Ltd, concessions that the taxpayers will end up have to fund. Modern agriculture has sterilised much of the British countryside already without attracting attention. Ironically railway embankments can act as a green bio-diverse corridor and it is a fact that railway lines abandoned since the 1950s greatly outnumber HS2 in terms of route mileage,

Pedr   05/02/2016 at 17:38

Take heart. We rebuilt an old line through a National Park in Wales and were accused of sinning against practically all of the Ten Commandments. I think there were four Public Inquiries. We were able to show the 'ancient trees' had all grown since the last train ran. We built the line past the ospreys' nest while they were away in the sun for the winter. The road authorities built a bridge for bats to cross (yes!) and so far the native fauna and flora is doing fine - the trains have not run down any dragons. Since the line opened, we have hardly had a peep out of the objectors. The National Park had some changes of management and we have a harmonious relationship with them. The Council has not had to rebuild their road, so they save money. The tourist road coaches put their trippers on the train and take the coach round, thus no longer bending their coaches on the scenery. 25 miles of railway for £30m. Some grants from the EU. Go ye and do likewise.

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