This is no ‘green Government,’ says Woodland Trust over proposed plans that would destroy ancient woodland for HS2

Flickr: PatrickSmithPhotography

Ancient woodland will be destroyed once the decision for the HS2 has been officially announced today by Transport Secretary Justine Greening.

The go ahead for the proposed High Speed Two rail link between Birmingham and London will condemn 21 ancient woodlands.

“Any government agreeing to the destruction of ancient woodland is wholly mistaken when referring to itself as the ‘greenest government ever,'” said Nikki Williams, Woodland Trust Head of Campaigning. “Regardless of any mitigation strategy put forward by Government on HS2, no compensation can exist for this loss.”

Such a move by the Government will clear out habitats as noise and vibration drive wild animals from their natural surroundings and force the country deeper into financial problems with an added £1,700 of debt for every British household.

And in a time when families are taking austere measures to save the pennies, it’s not surprising to find that this project is not a popular one.

Of course, it’s not just the expense of the £32 billion project that is seeing campaigners urging the Government to reconsider its plans.

So far, analysis has shown that at least 21 ancient woodlands will be directly impacted from the route with a further 27 ancient woods likely to suffer significant damage or loss. Consequently, this will produce a negative impact on the UK’s woodland considering it’s the least wooded country in Europe with only 12 per cent of woodland cover compared to 44 percent for the rest of Europe.

“Ancient woodland is the UK’s equivalent of the rainforest and is literally irreplaceable,” said Williams. “It is our richest wildlife habitat and even slicing a small corner off one wood impacts the wildlife in the rest of it.”

Unsurprisingly, though, campaigners for HS2 say it won’t harm the environment. But who actually believes that? I mean how it is possible for the second stage of the high speed rail network not to impact the environment? Increased carbon emissions, more power to run faster trains, negative impact on wildlife and a reduction on ancient woodland are just a few of the predictions from campaigners who want to prevent HS2.

Dan Large of the Campaign for High Speed Rail doesn’t win any brownie points when he said on BBC News, “there are always environmental concerns about any major infrastructure projects; that’s nothing new.”

It may not be anything new in the eyes of Dan Large, but it’s shocking to see that the government is giving this proposal the go ahead. Trees that have been standing for hundreds of years should not be brushed aside simply to please the rich who won’t actually be able to use HS2 until 2026. I hope there haven’t been any urgent meetings planned along the proposed route anytime soon. Can you imagine how slow travelling to Birmingham would be from London if there was? A whole 1 hour 24 minutes.

I think I could get to Birmingham quicker if I walked.

Not only that, but where on earth does the government manage to find billions of pounds to fund a project when it has enough trouble trying to kick-start the economy? It’s just a wild guess, but I’m pretty sure they could use that £32 billion somewhere else where it’s needed.

After all, it’s not like we don’t already have three rail routes in existence along the proposed high speed route, but apparently we need another one to complete the set.

“The way the Government has dealt with its proposal for High Speed Two is extremely disappointing,” said Williams. “Even now, the environmental impacts of the proposed route have not been properly assessed and there are no plans to assess them until late 2012.”

But what’s a few trees when it means shaving off ten minutes or an hour of our journey time in a world that is obsessed with getting from A to B in the quickest and easiest way possible? The government speaks and we’re supposed to listen and follow without questioning their motives – because, apparently, they know what’s best for us.

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One thought on “This is no ‘green Government,’ says Woodland Trust over proposed plans that would destroy ancient woodland for HS2

  1. Eighteenth century historian Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee, it is thought, argued that, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.” And as British writer G.K. Chesterton put it in the 20th century: “You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.”

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