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Forest charity slams high speed rail plans

By Colin Ricketts - 23 Mar 2011 14:55:0 GMT
Forest charity slams high speed rail plans

The Woodland Trust has slammed the UK Government's planned high speed rail plans saying that they will destroy 21 ancient woodlands and has launched a petition against the proposed HS2 rail line linking London to the north of England.

The Trust also accuses the Government of misleading the public by understating the loss of ancient habitats: the public consultation document records loss of land at only 19 ancient woods, while the trust maintains 21 will be lost and a further 27 sites affected. Ancient woodland in the UK is defined as land that has been wooded since 1600 or earlier.

Nikki Williams, head of campaigning at the Woodland Trust, said: ''We actively support moves towards green transport but it needs to be efficient, of benefit to a majority of the public and should not sacrifice the environment's rarest habitats.''

''The HS2 consultation document however seems to focus more on how to get people from A to B as quickly as possible, while great chunks of detail on environmental impact are missing. The Trust therefore is not convinced HS2 is a green scheme, and we need to question whether the UK even has the kind of topography to accommodate high speed trains without substantial damage to our natural environment.''

''There is no escaping the fact that the proposed route completely destroys or irrevocably damages 21 ancient woods. Even the Government admits to the likely loss of 19 of them. Ancient woodland is the UK's equivalent of the rainforest and we only have a tiny fraction of it left - 2% of our woodland cover. Once destroyed, it cannot be recreated with new trees, so it is literally irreplaceable. The unique conditions which exist here - the result of centuries of undisturbed soils and tree cover - makes this the UK's richest wildlife habitat for rare and threatened species. Regardless of any mitigation strategy put forward by Government on HS2, no compensation can exist for this loss.''

The Trust has launched a petition, which you can sign online at: woodlandtrust.org.uk/HS2. Comments left will help the Trust formulate its formal response to the planned rail link.