HS2: Super fast trains or ancient woods in the Chilterns
PUBLISHED: 17:22 05 May 2011 | UPDATED: 12:01 28 February 2013
As the vivid green mantle of young leaves fill our beautiful Chilterns beech woods, the HS2 road-show rolls into Buckinghamshire with plans to rip up trees to make space for super fast train services
The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust believes that destroying woodlands which have taken at least 400 years to grow into wonderful places to see wildlife is a bad idea!
Whats the impact of High Speed Rail on ancient woodlands in the Vale of Aylesbury as well as in the Chilterns? Within Buckinghamshire the proposed route will directly impact 11 ancient woodlands. Another 18 woods within one kilometre of the route will be affected by construction and possible loss of wildlife habitats.
Were gravely concerned about the Governments plans for HS2 because they dont take account of the valuable local wildlife habitats, says Chris Williams, the Trusts Head of Conservation for Buckinghamshire.
The proposed route slices off the western section of Sheephouse Wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest in the Vale of Aylesbury. This woodland relies on damp clay soil, and the construction work and layout of the track will probably interfere with drainage.
In the Chilterns the proposed line going north bursts out of a tunnel under Amersham and straight through several woods before it goes into the Little Missenden tunnel, and then emerges into more ancient woods. Where the line is in a cutting within the woods, even more trees will be lost either side of the tracks.
No environmental assessment
You would expect a project of this magnitude to have a comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment, looking at all aspects of the project. But the Government has not done this, says Chris Williams.
A full assessment would not only look at the environmental impacts of the whole route from London to Birmingham and beyond to Scotland, but also consider the environmental impacts of alternatives to high speed rail.
As part of a powerful alliance of major national charities, the Wildlife Trust has signed up to The Right Lines Charter calling for a national transport strategy.
We believe that there are sustainable transport options, such as more investment in current intercity lines, or a high speed route avoiding sensitive wildlife sites, which the Government is not considering, says Chris Williams.
The HS2 route includes a proposal to plant two million trees, which may appear to be suitable mitigation. But planting trees in 2015 cannot replace trees that have been growing for more than 400 years. A line of trees to screen the track will not replace habitats lost under the train.
Which woods are affected?
Some will have land taken by the railway; others will be affected during construction.
Weedonhill Wood, High Springs and Ostlers Wood; trains going north will emerge from the Amersham tunnel and through these ancient woodlands.
Hedgemoor, Farthings and Mantles Woods at Hyde Heath; the railway emerges from the Little Missenden tunnel and straight through these woods.
Sibleys Coppice at South Heath, Great Missenden; part of the wood will be sliced off.
Jones Hill Wood south of Wendover; a third of the wood will be taken by the track.
Decoy Pond and Sheephouse Wood near Calvert where the land take will be at least 75 metres wide through these ancient woods, once part of Bernwood Forest.
Lotts and Pipers Wood near Amersham and Battlesford Wood near Denham Green; the railway passes immediately next to these woods which will be affected by construction work.
Finemere Wood, the Wildlife Trusts reserve near Botolph Claydon
where the track will rip through the meadow next to the wood. The loss of that meadow is important to the integrity of the site. It will
prevent the woodland spreading naturally across this valuable semi-natural meadow which is a buffer against the surrounding intensively-farmed fields.
Chiltern Society joins nationwide campaign
The Chiltern Society has joined a powerful alliance of major national charities challenging the HS2 proposals and is planning a series of protests in the coming months.
Nine other groups, including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the RSPB, the Woodland Trust, the Wildlife Trusts, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have signed The Right Lines Charter, setting out guidelines that need to be followed if a high speed rail network is to be established in the UK.
Society chairman John Taylor said: The Government has been trying to trivialise and sideline those who oppose high speed rail crossing the Chilterns by dismissing them as Nimbys.
This is not only offensive, but government has used this to avoid addressing the serious concerns that are being expressed from many quarters. There should be range of options put forward for major transport infrastructure projects such as high speed rail, and public consultation should only take place once the public can see and examine the pros and cons of these options.
The Society has made a DVD showing the impact the line would bring and is organising daily protest walks around the Prime Ministers Chilterns base at Chequers. In addition it is producing technical reports to be submitted into the HS2 consultation and to the Transport Select Committee. A Facebook page has attracted significant support.