As Greens we share with all our party colleagues a huge respect for the natural world and a love of our country’s woodland and the wildlife it supports. We mourn the loss of ancient woodland wherever it happens. HS2 sadly causes the loss of some of this woodland.
However, one of the reasons why we’ve set up this group is all the fake news about HS2’s environmental impact, some echoed by prominent people who should know better. The debate should be based in fact and a sense of proportion. So let’s talk about HS2 and woodland. First up…
No, 108 ancient woodlands are NOT being “destroyed” by HS2.
The source for that, the Wildlife Trusts’ report, has listed all the woodlands in a 1-km wide strip around the railway, whether it actually crosses them or not.
Saying that all these woodlands are being “destroyed” is spin. We should expect better from such a source.
Phases 1 and 2a of HS2 directly impact 43 ancient woodland sites; just 39 hectares of woodland are lost for the whole 155 miles of new railway. (Sources: Phase 1 Ancient Woodland Strategy and Phase 2a. These are good documents, worth a read.)
While this irrevocable harm is massively regrettable, it needs to be put into context: if we don’t systemically decarbonise our society, every woodland habitat we have will be disfigured beyond recognition by climate change.
Next up: no, HS2 is not causing the worst deforestation since World War One. This is a ridiculous claim. 212 thousand hectares were lost during WW2, equivalent to the whole of West Yorkshire. Forestry and agriculture since 1945 took half of all remaining ancient woodland. HS2 impacts on less than 1/10,000th of what remains.
Let’s compare HS2 to roads. The Lower Thames Crossing, a 15-mile motorway, impacts 45 hectares of ancient woodland. And that’s just 15 of the 4,000 miles of new road that the government has plans for. Road schemes like the A14 chew up land like this 👇 yet we are silent.
And see this 👇 about the car parking space at just one airport.
In short: HS2 is NOT a major threat to habitat or woodland, and we Greens should focus our opposition on the schemes which are. Now, before it’s too late.