Is High Speed 2 a fait accompli?

High Speed 2 may appear a fait accompli for our ancient woodland along the route, but there is tantalising gossip indicating that all is not well in the HS2 camp.

Despite confirmation that HS2 will go forward there is too much to lose to just walk away and we think there is everything to gain by keeping up the fight.

High Speed 2 is a poster child for major infrastructure; the highest reccuring threat to rare, ancient woodland. For those of you following the recent blogs by our Katharine you will know that we can back this up statistically.

Too often vulnerable woods are put in a position where they are pushed far down the pecking order in the decision-making process. It feels relentless! Especially when the pitch usually includes a plethora of claims for how ‘green’ a concept is going to be – as if destruction of irreplaceable habitats is an acceptable part of their version of ‘green’. Oo it naffs me off!


Oo it naffs me off!

While fingers remain crossed for a change in the route the Trust has no choice but to keep the negotiations and discussions around the current route’s impact on the environment alive. Our priority here has to be to stand up for effective damage limitation, and mitigation at a landscape scale. We will continue to push HS2 Ltd for a commitment to native trees, both for the proposed 2 million tree planting scheme and mitigation proposals: we want to ensure the tree species chosen are of benefit to local wildlife and people.

We are ready to start influencing the Hybrid Bill. We need to enshrine a way to minimise the wider environmental impact in this Bill, as many more ancient woods stand to be irreparably damaged (24 are less than 50 metres away) by HS2 if we don’t. The wildlife that relies on them for survival depends on us all to do this. We will continue to be part of the Right Lines Charter, working with fellow environmental organisations within this group to ensure a network of different habitats for local wildlife as well as wooded places for people.

And as the ‘Y’ (up to Leeds and Manchester) route becomes clearer we will work hard to influence the next stage of HS2’s development, with an ambition to diminish unreasonable environmental compromises from future plans. We must push departments responsible for infrastructure to understand that truly ‘green’ projects do not include a get-out clause for the destruction of the irreplaceable!

Can we continue to tolerate wild statements such as ‘ancient woodland can be relocated’ and have a future for the wooded places and spaces we love in our landscapes? Put simply, no! So we will not walk away & lick our wounds now the route has been set, we will stay and politely fight on.

Are we doing the right thing? – Happy to hear your thoughts…


About Nikki Williams

Head of Campaigning for the Woodland Trust
This entry was posted in Campaigning, Climate Change, Woods Under Threat and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Is High Speed 2 a fait accompli?

  1. apolden says:

    Yes, just think of Justine Greening saying that ancient woodlands in the way of HS2 weren’t problem because you could move them!!!
    However, is there a crack of light in her announcement on Monday of more money to upgrade existing lines? That is what most of those who oppose HS2 in any form have been arguing all along. Upgrades would be finished much quicker and be infinitely cheaper.
    It’s a shame the weather was so awful for the rally outside Parliament last Monday. Some of us braved the deluge, standing there for two hours, but there were far fewer people there than we had hoped, and very few MPs crossed the road to talk to their constituents.

    • Nikki Williams says:

      Thank you for posting your thoughts. Sorry the weather put a dampener (literally!) on your day, but the fights not over yet 🙂

  2. fight it all the way from London to Scotland on the environmental grounds alone. The Justine Greenings of this world come and go but woodlands are gone forever. Keep shaking the tree and the ground might just give way under HS2

  3. D. Greenwood says:

    Hi Nikki,

    Indeed, the rumours of HS2 being shelved are growing, not merely from outside of the Government but also Will Hutton’s complaint that the Treasury wants to ‘kill HS2’.

    Ancient Woodland is a vital part of our culture, the English bluebell, wild strawberry and oak tree are images banded around almost without people understanding or being aware of their origins. Of course, these are species found in many ancient woodlands in England, this is where they thrive.

    It is up to organisations like the Woodland Trust and people passionate about our natural environment to continue arguing the point here, particularly when the project is looking shakier than ever.

  4. I agree with the points in the film, but it omits one important factor – one that the DfT is keeping very quiet about too – where is all the spoil from the tunnels and cuttings going to be dumped? This could endanger yet more woodland.
    I hope more people, including representatives from the Woodland Trust, will be present at the rally outside Parliament on Monday 16th July.

    • Nikki Williams says:

      Hi Andrea
      It is like toppling dominoes isnt it? Behind every bad decision, there is another waiting to fall on us. Sorry I couldnt attend the rally, I have been out of the country for the past 6 weeks but I hope you felt your voices got heard.

  5. Mrs Maureen McGregor says:

    I can not bear to think of a HS2 train coming so close to our house, houses of our neighbours and those of anybody who is affected. It is appalling to think that governments can just decide that this scheme is a fait accompli. Fight on for the ancient woodland and I am sure you will have many in the “silent majority” who will support you. Let us all stand up and be counted!!

  6. Rod Leslie says:

    I think there’s a much bigger & more fundamental issue here.

    One of the tragedies of our time is that so many actions designed to combat climate change have clashed directly with the environment: it’s not just HS2, look at onshore wind and the Severn barrage. My hope would be that actions designed to help the ‘big’ environment would be sensitive to the natural environment – the opposite seems to be the case with an attitude of ‘we can blast through all that nature because we’re saving the planet.’ Too often these projects are initiated by engineers apparently without any contact with other interests. Our planning system doesn’t help: it encourages extreme schemes which are then gradually watered down by opposition – a manifesto for the lowest common denominator, when we should be seeking excellence from the start.

    Over a year ago I floated the idea that HS2 should be ‘lost’ not in the usual chastity belt of trees (you can tell its that when its stated in number of trees not hectares !) but a complete new landscape of new woodlands and other habitats. I’m not advocating substitution – I abhor the loss of any ancient woodland whatsoever and am convinced AW didn’t feature as a factor in the planning of the route – but rather a much bigger, broader approach to future landscapes that leaves us better off for the future from both a climate and a natural environment point of view.

    The one encouraging thing in all this – which actually leaves us all losers because we do need to tackle climate change issues – is that the heavy engineering approach isn’t succeeding – Severn Barrage shelved, onshore wind so unpopular its become standard to protest against it and environmental objection a major factor leaving HS2 in the balance.

    There’s no doubt we should continue campaigning – for the ancient woodlands but even more so for a better approach to schemes of this sort.

    • Nikki Williams says:

      Thanks for your comments Rod. Apologies for a slow response.
      I think you are right that we should be taking a bit of a step back and looking at some of these issues at the right scale. It’s clear that larger scale projects result in a whole series of unwelcome impacts both on individual communities and on areas of high quality environment. This will often add up to a landscape scale impact too, such that all of these individual impacts combine to create a major disruption to whole networks of habitats and patterns of species movement. Is it too easy, as you suggest, for projects to get away with offering some screening here and a bit of earthworks there as part of a piecemeal approach, trying to fob off those most affected? Big projects require big responses and we will continue to look for opportunities to press for a much more joined-up and landscape scale approach – if a project is so important (and expensive) because it is of national significance and this is taken to justify its destructive effects, then surely we can argue that the environmental response should be of the same order of magnitude – both at the planning and delivery stages?
      Austin Brady, Head of Conservation

  7. I don`t think the ridiculous scheme should go ahead at all!

    the arguments, “they” bring up in support of decimating our countryside is that it will create
    so many jobs… they will be short term jobs, and far less of the cost of this scheme could be invested to “create and maintain” far more jobs…. The factory for the disabled , Remploy, comes easily to mind.. and this “excuse” is given too easily for too many ridiculous projects.

    “They” also say, in support, that it will knock about 20 mins (or so?? give or take 10mins !!!)
    off the trip from London to Birmingham. who will benefit? the taxpayers in general, or the rich?

    Our England, well my England has changed too much by too much ill thought out development these last few years…. and where exactly has it got us?

    • Nikki Williams says:

      Thanks for your comment. You echo so many sentiments we hear from people affected by the route chosen. Thats why we will continue to fight on and do all we can to support you

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