After 18 months of lobbying by the Woodland Trust, the Government has finally admitted that a further 14 ancient woods are threatened by HS2, bringing the route-wide total from 83 to 97.
The 14 woods were among 23 areas the Woodland Trust believed could be unmapped ancient woodland and were uncovered as part of the charity’s examination of the Phase 1 Environmental Statement at the end of 2013.
Following submission of evidence by the Woodland Trust to Natural England, the body responsible for the Ancient Woodland Inventory, confirmation that 14 of these areas are indeed ancient woodland has finally been received.
Answering a question in Parliament on Wednesday, Robert Goodwill MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport confirmed that Natural England had added the 14 woods along the HS2 route to the Ancient Woodland Inventory.
Austin Brady, Director of Conservation & External Affairs for the Woodland Trust, said: “That these woods have finally been registered as ancient is both welcome and cause for great concern. Their true value has been recognised and we can now push hard for damage to be avoided. But how did HS2 miss 14 ancient woods during the survey work it carried out last year?
“Ancient woodland should be top of HS2’s list of habitats to protect but in driving forward so quickly it is clearly failing to check the blind spots.”
“With supplementary environmental statements on the way and surveys for Phase 2 on the horizon, if is to produce work of any real use in establishing an accurate picture for environmental damage, and seriously seek to protect ancient woodland in line with the Government’s own policy, it must look carefully at its methods.
“Government has consistently argued that current policy sufficiently protects ancient woodland, but if HS2 Ltd as director of the largest infrastructure project in Europe is failing to properly assess environmental damage and cannot ensure sufficient protection, what hope is there for more than 600 other threatened ancient woods in the UK?”
HS2 has previously claimed that 32 hectares of ancient woodland will be lost along the route of Phase 1 alone. With this new information, the Woodland Trust now estimates a further 12 hectares will be lost, making a total of 44 hectares (over 108 acres).
BREAKDOWN OF FIGURES:
Route-wide, High Speed 2 from London to Manchester and Leeds will cause:
Loss or damage to 97 ancient woods.
Direct loss to 49 ancient woods.
Damage to a further 48 lying on or near the construction boundary of Phase 1, or near the proposed route of Phase 2, and likely to suffer damage due to noise, vibration, changes to lighting and dust.
At least 13 ancient trees will be lost (habitats in their own right).
On Phase 1, where more detail is available, the latest information confirms:
Loss or damage to 62 ancient woods.
Direct loss to 35 ancient woods.
Damage to a further 27 lying on or near the construction boundary of Phase 1 that are likely to suffer damage due to noise, vibration, changes to lighting and dust.
At least 8 ancient trees will be lost (habitats in their own right).
Of the 14 newly added woods, 12 will be directly threatened. These are:
New Years Green Covert near Ickenham in Greater London,
an unnamed wood near Calvert in Buckinghamshire,
Fox Covert near Whitfield in Northamptonshire,
Fox Covert (aka Glynn Davis Wood) near Wormleighton,
Burnt Firs near Offchurch,
Birches Wood near Crackley,
Little Poors Wood and Blackwaste Wood near Burton Green and Walker's Spinney near Middleton all in Warwickshire,
Fulfen Wood near Lichfield in Staffordshire,
and Langley Hill and Park Hill near Castle Bromwich in Birmingham.
Of the 14 newly added woods, 2 will be indirectly threatened. These are:
Big Poors Wood near Burton Green and an unnamed Wood near Stoneleigh both in Warwickshire.