HS2 threat to ancient woodlands branded ‘a disgrace’

Will the benefits of HS2 outweigh its environmental costs?
Will the benefits of HS2 outweigh its environmental costs?

The planned construction of the HS2 high-speed rail line will pose a threat to ancient woodland between Worksop and Sheffield, according to a new report.

Analysis by the Woodland Trust has revealed the northern phase of the line will have an impact on at least 24 sites categorised as irreplaceable.

That will include direct losses to Nicker Wood on the edge of the former Aston Hall estate, close to the A57.

Beccy Speight, the trust’s chief executive, said: “Any loss or damage to ancient woodland is a catastrophe for the natural environment, particularly when you consider how little we have left.

“With the trail of destruction HS2 Ltd will cause, it will never be able to call this project ‘green’ – so far, it’s been an absolute disgrace.”

Ancient woodland is a descriptive term used to group areas that share centuries of continuity on largely undisturbed natural soils.

Each one is a product of its location, geology, soils, climate and history – conditions which cannot be recreated elsewhere.

Ancient woodland covers just 2 per cent of the UK and much of it is highly fragmented, and yet is regarded as its richest land-based habitat, giving a home to 256 species of conservation concern.

The trust has been campaigning to save woodlands up and down the country since details of the initial London to Birmingham phase was announced in 2011.

Decisions on route alterations, the width of track cuttings, road building for vehicle access, or noise and disturbance can all make a difference to the ecosystem of ancient woods.

Sir Kevin Barron, Rother Valley MP, said: “This is another example of poor planning from HS2, not only will this route be ruining people’s homes and livelihoods but will also take out ancient woodlands.

“I have met with Andrew Jones, the transport minister, on many occasions to highlight the weaknesses of this HS2 route. I will continue to highlight this campaign and the plight of Nicker Wood in the forthcoming General Election campaign.”

HS2 plans for the Birmingham to Leeds branch have endured troubles which saw a potential station at Meadowhall scrapped, and a Sheffield city centre route abandoned.

A new route was agreed in November last year and involves a 5.5 mile “spur” close to the M18 into Sheffield’s existing railway station off a route running closer to Rotherham and Doncaster.

This option has caused controversy as it would result in a number of properties being demolished on the Shimmer Estate in Mexborough, Doncaster.

It is envisaged construction on Phase Two will start in 2022 with completion by 2032.

n For more information on the route and its impact on woodlands, visit http://bit.ly/2gjnpNk