HS2 preparation for the Hybrid Bill includes multiple errors, flawed calculations, and methods that go against Government guidance in its ‘vain attempts to justify loss and damage to 63 ancient woods along the first phase of the route’, says the Woodland Trust.
If these errors are left uncorrected, the Trust says not only will HS2’s vision to build the line “seeking to avoid significant adverse effects on … the natural, historic and built environment” be impossible, but dangerous precedents could be set for the way ancient woodland is treated in future development decisions.
The charity will appear in front of the HS2 Select Committee today, Wednesday February 3.
Luci Ryan, Woodland Trust Ecologist, said: “Despite years of meetings, lobbying, groundwork, research and reams of paperwork provided by the Woodland Trust to HS2 Ltd, they have not only failed to rectify errors in relation to ancient woodland, but even to fully admit them.
“Instead, they’re attempting to disguise the irrevocable loss and damage this irreplaceable habitat will suffer, misleading the Government, the Select Committee and the public. In doing so, it could set dangerous precedents that put ancient woodland at even greater risk in future.”
The Woodland Trust says it has “uncovered the following errors by HS2 Ltd which are yet to be addressed”:
* HS2 Ltd will not achieve its promise of ‘no net loss of biodiversity’ if ancient woodland is lost and damaged and the newly published No Net Loss in Biodiversity Calculation clearly shows that Phase 1 does not achieve this.
* HS2 Ltd has attempted to grade ancient woods with some given a lower quality rating – this goes against all government guidance.
* The company offers no explanation for how it has calculated the number of trees that it states should be planted to compensate for trees lost. When asked, HS2 representatives will only state “professional judgement” has been used.
* The company’s draft Ancient Woodland Strategy bases its justification for using translocation of ancient woodland soils on a report by the Woodland Trust (Ryan 2013) that says translocation does not work.
* HS2 Ltd is likely to cease to exist following line construction (as HS1 did following the construction of the Channel Tunnel rail link) but no legal binding promises have been made in relation to environmental work so far – only ‘assurances’.