1. What is HS2?
HS2 is a proposed high-speed railway, Phase 1 of which would stretch from London to Birmingham. Phase 2a runs West Midlands to Crewe and Phase 2b runs Crewe to Manchester and West Midlands to Leeds.
2. Why are they proposing to build HS2?
There are a variety of reasons why the government are proposing the construction of a new high speed railway. The main reasons stem from capacity issues on the UK’s existing rail network and to reduce travel time for passengers.
3. Why is the Woodland Trust opposing HS2?
In principle the Trust has no objection to railways or proposals to strengthen the UK’s rail network. However, as with any development we consider, we believe that the impact the HS2 route would have on ancient woods and trees across the UK landscape is totally unacceptable. Phase 1 of the HS2 route has now been approved by parliament and as such will result in damage and loss to 63 ancient woods.
While the numbers are still subject to change for the Phase 2 route, at this stage it is apparent that 17 ancient woods will come under threat from the Phase 2a section stretching from Fradley (West Midlands) to Crewe.
4. Why is the Woodland Trust getting in the way of necessary development if this is going to improve the train network?
As stated above, the Trust has no issue with HS2 in principle; however it is clear that the HS2 route’s impact on irreplaceable ancient woods and trees is unacceptable.
As such we are asking for the scheme to work harder, and to consider options such as bored tunnelling under threatened ancient woods and trees to avoid loss and damage.
5. What should I include in my response?
Although we have written some of the response for you, why not have a read of the Environmental Statement and consider including the following in your response:
- Has your local ancient wood or veteran tree been identified?
- Has the wildlife in your local woodland been identified and does it represent your knowledge of the woods?
- Have any structures such as culverts or access gates been placed inappropriately in relation to the ancient woodland? Can you suggest better placement?
- Do the conclusions drawn about the severity and longevity of the threat and the mitigation look realistic?
- Have the mitigation and compensation suggestions adequately answered your concerns?
6. Which ancient woods will be affected?
We have produced a map of all the woods likely to be affected by the line, available to view on our website here. Are any of them your local woods?
We also know of 27 ancient/veteran trees that will be impacted by the route of Phase 2a, many of which are located outside of ancient woodland.
7. What is special about these woods and trees?
Ancient woods have been continuously wooded since at least 1600 AD and have taken centuries, even millennia, to develop and evolve into unique and valuable habitats. The undisturbed soils of ancient woodland lay the foundation on which some of the UK’s rarest and sensitive species thrive. Destroying this habitat and ripping up these soils will alter the ancient woods forever.
Considering that only 2% of the UK’s land cover is ancient woodland it’s clear that we cannot afford to lose any more of this precious habitat.
The ancient and veteran trees that will be subject to damage and loss are most famed for the key wildlife habitat features they provide, such as hollowing, cavities and decaying wood. These features are like their own microhabitats that support a wide range of invertebrates, lichen, fungi and other specialised plants and animals.
8. In a best case scenario, could there be no impact on ancient woodland?
We have said throughout our campaign against the HS2 route that ancient woodland and veteran trees can be avoided. In some areas we have been able to achieve just that, e.g. the successful battle for a tunnel under the Chilterns saved over ten hectares of ancient woodland.
Unfortunately our pleas to avoid all ancient woodland have too often fallen on deaf ears meaning the current route will result in the destruction of ancient woodland. While we understand that there are limitations regarding the engineering aspects of the line we believe it is of the utmost importance to take every step possible to avoid ancient woodland.
The largest area of ancient woodland loss currently proposed by the scheme is located on the Phase 2a route at Whitmore Wood – an ancient woodland west of Stoke-on-Trent scheduled to suffer six hectares of ancient woodland loss.
We firmly believe that HS2 Ltd need to re-think the current route and explore alternatives to prevent so much damage and loss to ancient woods and trees.
9. Can the impacts be mitigated?
By definition, ancient woodland is irreplaceable; therefore it cannot be recreated and its loss cannot be mitigated for. Any replacement planting must be referred to as compensation, however no amount of additional planting can replace a habitat as biodiverse as ancient woodland.
HS2 Ltd has proposed measures to compensate for ancient woodland loss such as the translocation of ancient woodland soil and planting along the route corridor. However there is no evidence to indicate that the process of translocation works. It is nigh on impossible to retain the valuable characteristics of ancient woodland soils once they have been dug up.
10. I’m concerned about my local wood being impacted, but it’s not ancient. What can I do?
It is still important to raise concerns and lobby for it to be protected. Why not take our supporter action and write about your local woodland too? If HS2 Ltd is to be convinced to make route alterations and protect woodland, it needs many voices asking for this to occur.