CAMPAIGNERS have hit out at HS2 following claims the company has created ‘new woodland’.
Developers of the controversial high speed line – of which 54km will cut through the heart of Warwickshire – recently started construction work.
And they said to mitigate the loss of ancient woodlands they had carried out works which had so far included the planting of 80,000 trees.
Campaigner Rose Guiot says many of the saplings planted by HS2 at the mitigation site on Mill Lane in Cubbington have so far died.
Rose told the Observer: “The much vaunted ‘new woodland’ which HS2 contractors have planted are just plantations of saplings. They won’t be woodland for decades, perhaps centuries to come. There is simply no valid way to mitigate for the loss of ancient woodland.
“Natural England recommended planting 30 hectares for ‘new woodland’ for every hectare of ancient woodland destroyed. HS2 Ltd’s plans fall way below this level.”
Rose says every day she sees more trees and sections of hedgerow being removed along the Fosse Way, something she calls ‘a ‘heart-breaking scene of utter devastation’.
Among those due to be felled is Cubbington’s award-winning pear tree, and in last-ditch attempt to save it residents have begun tying yellow ribbons to the fence in memory of loved ones.
But HS2 says after assessing the Cubbington mitigation site, it is happy with how the saplings are progressing and those that do not survive will be replaced.
It also claims Natural England’s recommendation was debated during the Phase One HS2 Act but not adopted by parliament.
Devastated campaigners say work has now spread to nearby Offchurch, where more than 120 mature oaks and 250 metres of woodland along the Greenway have been marked for felling.
Resident Kerry O’Grady was shocked to make the discovery during a walk.
She said: “The woodland, which is an old railway line in itself, is a magical place full of birds and insects.
“The Greenway was one of the places I cycled to in lockdown. It was a great solace to local people during a time of national stress. I think that if the people of Leamington knew we were about to lose this they would be horrified. While I was there I met two HS2 ecologists who were putting up a bat box in a nearby part of the woodland. Even they admitted it was pointless and that the whole thing is heart-breaking. Woodland such as this has taken hundreds of years to grow and mature and become homes for our birds and mammals. A few bat boxes and a manmade badger setts are not going to replace these valuable habitats. Nor are a million saplings, many of which will die because, as in the case of Cubbington woods, they have died due to lack of care.
“We knew HS2 would be bad but this wanton destruction of our countryside during a time of crisis of climate change, financial hardship and worry about coronavirus is wrong on every count.”
HS2 has confirmed around 250 metres off the Greenway will be felled.
A HS2 spokeswoman said: “HS2 make every effort to reduce the amount of vegetation removed during construction and, as part of our commitment to provide bigger and better green spaces, we have already created several new woodlands and wildlife habitats in Warwickshire, and will plant 250,000 new trees in the local area.
“All leading environmental organisations agree that climate change is the biggest future threat to wildlife and habitats in the UK. By providing a cleaner, greener way to travel, HS2 will help cut the number of cars and lorries on our roads, cut demand for domestic flights, and help the country’s push to reduce carbon emissions. We’d urge environmental groups to help us in getting people out of their cars, off planes and onto low-carbon, high speed rail.
“HS2 is already playing a pivotal role in helping Britain’s economic recovery as the country emerges from lockdown. There are 10,000 people already working on the HS2 project and we recently announced a further 22,000 jobs across the country, including 7,000 in the Midlands, at a time when we need them most.”