Does HS2 threaten our nation’s irreplaceable woodland?

Near Cubbington in Warwickshire sits a 250 pear tree which will be destroyed in current plans of High Speed Rail 2. Read the full article here.

Bosses have proposed the tree could be cloned and planted close-by. The tree, which is believed to be the second oldest of its kind in the UK, is not expected to survive if it is to be uprooted and placed somewhere else.

250 year-old pear tree

250 year-old pear tree

With the railway set to remove or damage 49 ancient woodlands in the stretch from London to Birmingham, this is just one example of where HS2 will not be able to replace what it removed. It is also worth noting there would be a severe and permanent impact on wildlife.

MP Robert Goodwill, who backed the project, said in parliament last week: ‘36 hectares of ancient woodland will have to be removed, and we are doing what we can to try to replace that… We cannot replace ancient woodland straight away, but we can do whatever possible to ensure that it regenerates’.

It begs to question, why are people treating our ancient environment as disposable and easily replaceable?

Stronger sceptics of the environmental impact take the form of Boris Johnson, who recently told Total Politics magazine– ‘People are in the humiliating position of having to pretend that there’s some environmental objection that they have, that the great crested grebe is going to be invaded or whatever. What they care about is their house prices’

He continued to claim: ‘We have protest groups talking about ‘this ancient woodland’ when actually there’s no tree in this country that’s more than 200 years old’

It seems there is a strong need to express the true impact of a railway-that’s lifetime will span only 100 years- on an environment that has been around for centuries.


Could HS2 do more?

There are plans to reduce the impact on more unique areas of our environment.

Recognising these are irreplaceable things we are talking about, people and organisations (including the National Trust) propose plans for an extended bored tunnel through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Beauty. This would save 10 hectares of ancient woodland. Although, HS2 have not agreed to this yet.

Also, HS2 have stated they will work to ‘off-set’ the impacts on biodiversity. It is not enough that the project should just replace what they will destroy. Instead they should strive to achieve a ‘net-gain’ in biodiversity.

MPs Caroline Spelman (who is a member of the Environment Audit Committee on HS2) and Joan Walley, expressed this need during the HS2 bill-reading last week.

If some of our unique landscape will be removed for good, we can at least use HS2 as an opportunity to cultivate even more biodiversity than there was in the first place.

 Samuel Weaver is a Media and Communications intern at the National Trust.

He is a recent History graduate from the University of the West of England. When not selling sausages in a deli, he usually occupies himself by researching and blogging on our nation’s more overlooked heritage. Follow him on twitter @weaversamuel2






6 thoughts on “Does HS2 threaten our nation’s irreplaceable woodland?

  1. The juggernaut of HS2 has to be stopped. The English countryside is being ruined to give a few wealthy people a slightly quicker journey to London.

  2. This is one of the things that make transformations just unacceptable. There are ways to spare the environment even with ideas that are intended for progression if only some people will be more considerate.

    • Thanks for the comment. HS2 is now a non-stop project with the House of Commons voting it in 2 weeks ago, however it can still be done properly so that enviromental impacts are reduced. Yes, we will lose alot of irreplacable assetts, but it is up to us to make sure HS2 doesn’t damage our envriomental, residential and heritage sites any more than it needs too.

  3. Hi Samuel, its great to see the National Trust raising the profile of ancient woodland along the line, you may be interested in our earlier blog on South Cubbington The Woodland Trust cannot stress enough how important it is that everyone considers irreplaceable ancient woodland in their petitions on HS2, we have created a useful toolkit which can be found at:
    Many thanks

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