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HS2 tactics ‘skirt the law’

Woodland Trust reveals HS2 Ltd has been caught using pest controllers to scare birds, suggesting woods are being cleared ahead of schedule
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Broadwells Wood

A pest control contractor employed by HS2 has been spotted flying hawks over Broadwells Wood in Warwickshire to deter birds from nesting in a move that ‘smacks of a cowboy operation, not a Government infrastructure project’, says the Woodland Trust.

Under the assurances of the Hybrid Bill, HS2 Ltd should notify the Woodland Trust of any works within 100 metres of the wood.

‘Alarming as it is that a Government scheme would use such a damaging method, and without disclosing it, we’re more concerned about why and what comes next. The wood is currently teeming with life – bluebells emerging, badgers busy in their setts and birds prospecting.

‘Works should not start until October when the wood is dormant, so it begs the question why attempt to prevent birds nesting now unless contractors wish to bring the bull dozers in this spring? By employing tactics that skirt the law, HS2 yet again appears to be a cowboy operation and not an exemplar of best practice expected of a Government-backed project.’

Lead ecologist for the Woodland Trust

Irreplaceable habitat

Ancient woods are irreplaceable habitat; they are home to more wildlife than any other land habitat, and to species that can’t survive anywhere else. Once lost they can’t be replaced. Less than 3% of the UK is covered by ancient woodland, meaning any loss can never be justified.

The fight was lost to protect the irreplaceable ancient Broadwells Wood near Warwick (main image), and HS2 Ltd has permission to fell 3.2 hectares to make way for phase one between London and Birmingham.

Broadwells is characterised by a canopy of mature oaks and birch, an understorey of hazel coppice and carpets of bluebells in spring that are replaced by bracken later in the year.

HS2 has publicly committed to translocating soils from this ancient woodland as part of its compensation package.

The problem with translocation

Translocation – defined as the wholesale removal of a functioning habitat from one area to another.

Increasingly, translocation is being suggested as a form of environmental compensation for proposed developments. However, translocation is not feasible for ancient woodland. Natural England clearly states that an ‘ancient woodland ecosystem cannot be moved’.

Industry guidance on translocation also considers that translocation of high-value sites such as ancient woodland is only ‘an appropriate activity to salvage and create a new habitat of some value, albeit a lower one than lost’.

Translocation can only be done when the wood is dormant – in late autumn or early winter. Attempting to clear the wood of nesting birds indicates HS2 intends to fell this wood much sooner than its commitments would allow.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it’s an offence intentionally to kill, injure or take any wild bird, or take or destroy their eggs or nest, or damage a nest, while that nest is in use or being built.

‘Who is holding HS2 to account? It seems they’ve been left to mark their own homework.’

Lead ecologist for the Woodland Trust

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