Ancient woodland at risk from rail link, says trust

The Woodland Trust has accused HS2 Ltd, the Government's developer of the proposed high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham, of "attempting to disguise the irrevocable loss and damage" to ancient woodland caused by the project, which it says sets a dangerous precedent for future developments.

The charity gave evidence earlier this month to the Commons HS2 select committee. Among its claims are that HS2's promise of no net loss of biodiversity cannot be achieved if ancient woodland is lost and damaged, but that HS2 "has manipulated calculations" to try and prove otherwise. The trust also claims that HS2 Ltd has justified its proposal to translocate ancient woodland soil to new sites by citing a Woodland Trust report that says such translocation does not work.

Its ecologist Luci Ryan said: "HS2 Ltd has 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."

The Woodland Trust said phase one of HS2 will adversely impact 30ha of ancient woodland across 34 sites, with a further 29 ancient woodlands adjacent to the route being indirectly affected.

HS2 Ltd representative Richard Pain said: "We remain committed to our goal of seeking no net loss to biodiversity. Our approach to ancient woodland is consistent with Natural England guidance. 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 9.2ha will no longer be lost."

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