Thursday 27 February 2014
Based on HS2 Ltd figures, 32ha of ancient woodland will be lost on Phase 1 of the HS2 route. 10.2ha of this (31.9%) could be saved by extending the current proposed Chilterns tunnel by a further 10.4km (4.5% of the Phase 1 line) from the northern tunnel portal in the middle of ancient Mantles Wood, to Wendover.
At midday on Thursday 27th February, the day on which the consultation into HS2 Phase 1’s Environmental Statement ends, a letter to the Prime Minister, signed by the Woodland Trust, The Ramblers, Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust, Chilterns Conservation Board, Buckinghamshire County Council and Cheryl Gillan MP will be presented to Number 10 asking the Prime Minister to directly intervene in this matter.
HS2 Ltd engineers have confirmed this proposal is technically feasible but the idea has been rejected due to ‘cost’. The negative cost to the environment should this proposal not be taken up however, is immeasurable.
Hilary Allison, Woodland Trust Policy Director, said:
“There is absolutely no excuse to bring a tunnel portal up into the middle of an irreplaceable ancient wood. Ancient woodland is a unique and irreplaceable habitat, widely recognised as having national importance and no amount of new planting would ever fully compensate for its loss. This tunnel extension is a sensible option and we hope to see Government and HS2 Ltd give it proper consideration.”
Steve Rodrick, Chief Officer of the Chilterns Conservation Board said:
“As both ancient woodland and the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty have been given national protection, how can it make sense to destroy them? A full length bored tunnel under the Chilterns to save these national treasures is desirable and practical.”
Estelle Bailey, CEO of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust.
“Breaking up wildlife habitats, such as ancient woodland, is one of the major causes for the loss of wildlife. Big transport projects like HS2 can carve up the countryside and drive a wedge between irreplaceable sites for wildlife. Ancient woodland is integral to the Chilterns landscape and important for people who live in and visit local towns and villages. Proposals that would save ancient woodland in the Chilterns must be given the highest possible priority.”
Current Woodland Trust analysis shows that overall on HS2 Phase 1, a total of 49 ancient woods will suffer direct loss or damage and threaten the ecological integrity of a further 23 woods. HS2 Ltd claims 19 will impacted upon. Due to insufficient information provided in the Environmental Statement, the Trust is unable to reconcile the total hectares to be lost but, given the clear disagreement in numbers of woods, it fears the final sum could be far greater than HS2 claims.
Read the letter presented to the Prime Minister: