Rail threat to local beauty spots

More ancient woodland in Birmingham added to list of HS2 threats.

Overlooked by HS2 Ltd, another two woods directly threatened by the line in Birmingham have finally been recognised as ancient by Government, confirming a continuing rise in threats to irreplaceable habitat

After extensive research and 18 months of lobbying by the Woodland Trust, the government has finally admitted that a further 14 ancient woods are threatened by HS2, two of which are Langley Hill and Park Hill both near Castle Bromwich in Birmingham. Added to the already threatened Parkhall, also near Castle Bromwich, this brings the total in Birmingham to three direct threats, and 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 Inventory1, 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).

The Woodland Trust will continue to push HS2 Ltd to deliver the very best protection for this irreplaceable habitat. Where the Trust is unable to save ancient woodland and only as a measure of absolute last resort, our aim is to ensure appropriate compensation is implemented route-wide.