Ancient woodland saved from HS2 — but only for the time being, and campaigners are worried

Work building HS2 in Britain's ancient woods has been deferred until the government completes a review.

The Woodland Trust has welcomed news of a deferral on HS2 work in ancient woodland, but said that all work must be halted to avoid irreversible damage.

Abi Bunker, the Woodland Trust’s director of conservation and external affairs, said the move was only made after pressure from the charity and other organisations and individuals.

‘We remain concerned about the fact that HS2 will still be carrying out some work at these sites,’ she said.

‘The richness of ancient woodland isn’t just about trees. It’s also the vegetation, the soils and the wildlife that makes ancient woodland a special irreplaceable habitat.

‘Work that permanently affects these habitats like clearing vegetation and evicting bats and mammals must be stopped too while the review is completed.’

The government’s Oakervee review will look at the benefits and impacts of HS2, as well as assessing its affordability and efficiency. The final report is expected this autumn.

‘It is vital that the review is robust, independent, and evidence-based, focusing on the true environmental costs of HS2,’ added Ms Bunker.

‘We will continue to put pressure on government to ensure this is the case and that any long-term decisions about HS2 take all of the latest evidence into account.’

The Woodland Trust states HS2 will result in at least 108 ancient woods being subject to damage and loss, the impact of which is ‘unacceptable’.

‘While we are in favour of green transport and not against high speed rail projects in principle, we are strongly opposed to the HS2 route,’ said a charity spokesman.

‘Any transport system that destroys irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland can never be called “green”.’

Ms Bunker added that the charity will monitor the situation very closely.

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It aims to protect and restore ancient woodland, as well as plant native trees and woods.