More ancient woods will be lost to HS2, Natural England admits

The government has conceded that a further 14 ancient woods will be threatened by the proposed HS2 high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham, on top of the 83 already acknowledged.

Image: Andrew Green
Image: Andrew Green

The extra area under threat covers 12 hectares in total. The 14 woods are among 23 areas which 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.

Based on evidence evidence submitted by the trust, Natural England, the Government body responsible for the Ancient Woodland Inventory, has confirmed that 14 of these areas are indeed ancient woodland.

The trust's director of conservation & external affairs Austin Brady 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?"

He added: "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?"

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