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HS2’s shocking timetable

Acting against industry standards, HS2 Ltd will start digging up ancient woodlands when they’re bursting into life
HS2 will destroy habitat of the common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)

HS2 Ltd has confirmed to the Woodland Trust it will begin the futile act of attempting to move the soil from five ancient woodlands during April.

The five sites are Broadwells Wood, Birches Wood, Crackley Wood, Fulfen Wood and Ashow Road, all in Warwickshire, and the work will take around eight weeks.

The move goes against both conservation principles and guidance from Natural England.

Broadwells Wood

The single biggest loss (3.2ha) of ancient woodland on Phase 1 of HS2 is in Broadwells Wood.  This ancient woodland is known to be home to many species of bat, including common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared, Daubenton’s, noctule and Myotis species.

HS2’s Environmental Impact Assessment identified that Broadwells contains suitable otter habitat, including for potential breeding. Active badger setts are also present.

‘Recipe for disaster’

Translocation is defined as the physical removal of a habitat from one location to another in an attempt to offset the impact of development on the ecological interest of a site.

Unfortunately, it is increasingly being suggested as a form of environmental compensation for proposed developments. However, translocation is not feasible for ancient woodland because ancient woodland is defined as an irreplaceable habitat.

Natural England guidance clearly states that an ‘ancient woodland ecosystem cannot be moved’. It is therefore not an appropriate alternative to conservation in situ.

‘Instead of bursting into life, these irreplaceable ancient woodlands now face imminent death.

‘Attempting to move ancient woodland soils from one site to another is flawed. Attempting it in April doubly so. Add into the mix that the contractor doing it has never translocated ancient woodland nor visited a translocated site and it’s a recipe for disaster. It’s like getting a bike mechanic to service a Boeing.’

Woodland Trust ecologist

Protections vs costs

Translocation of ancient woodland involves moving soils and sometimes coppiced tree stumps to a receptor site in the vain hope some habitat is salvageable, but there is very little evidence of its success.

The complex communities found in ancient woodland are a product of the interaction between unique geographical and historical factors taking place over many centuries; interactions that simply cannot be replicated.

If translocation is attempted it must be carried out in late autumn/early winter when plants are dormant. HS2 had previously agreed to do this, but now appears to have changed its mind due to costs increasing and timeframes slipping.

‘HS2 Ltd has admitted it is acting against industry standards by doing the work now, when ancient woodland is bursting into life. We are shocked at their approach. Protection of the environment continues to play second fiddle to costs and timetables.’

Woodland Trust ecologist

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