13th Dec, 2019

Ancient woodland still being cut down by HS2 - despite supposed government 'halt', say campaigners

Laura Kearns 19th Sep, 2019 Updated: 20th Sep, 2019

CAMPAIGNERS claim ancient woodland continues to be cut down to make way for HS2 – just days after an announcement work was set to stop during a review into the high speed rail line.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said on Monday that historic woodland would not be removed before the review into the controversial project was completed later this year.

But residents in Cubbington say work was underway on Wednesday (September 18) in South Cubbington Wood, which is also home to an award-winning 200-year-old pear tree.

A spokeswoman for South Cubbington Action Group Against HS2 said: “Far from being saved for the moment from the ravages of HS2, South Cubbington Wood seems to be under a greater threat.

“In the past two days there has been a great deal of activity. Fencing is being installed in the wood, with small trees being cut down to make way for it, a ditch on the edge of the wood has been filled in and pipes laid. There is much lorry activity, with great amounts of dust being generated from the haul roads.

“Grant Shapps’ announcement left HS2 and their contractors a get-out clause, and they seem determined to use it. They have not even taken the time to assess what can be left alone for the time being, as the Secretary of State said should be done.”

The announcement earlier this week said the brakes would be put on woodland clearance programmes unless shown to be ‘absolutely necessary’ to avoid major cost and schedule impacts should the project proceed. It is while a review into the project takes place.

The review – headed by former HS2 chairman Douglas Oakervee – will look at HS2’s benefits and impacts, affordability and efficiency, deliverability and scope. It is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The line – 54 kilometres of which will cut through Warwickshire – would include removing woodland in Cubbington, Crackley Wood in Kenilworth, Long Itchington Wood and land near Stoneleigh.

In his announcement, Mr Shapps said: “There is no sense in hiding the challenges HS2 faces, or masking the difficult decisions that need to be taken.

“So, as the review continues, we must take a sensible approach and recognise that some works simply cannot be undone later.

“Having listened to the concerns of affected residents and parliamentary colleagues, I have ordered HS2 Ltd to consider what works affecting ancient woodland clearances can be delayed for the duration of the review. This ensures we avoid irreversible decisions without major impacts on cost and schedule.

“HS2 may be a complex project overall, but I think this request is just common sense.”

But HS2 says the work is needed to keep the project on track.

A spokesman told the Observer: “As announced by government at the start of the review, limited preparatory works on the project will continue in parallel. As highlighted by the Secretary of State in his announcement this week, we must strike a sensible balance between keeping the programme on track, and recognising that some works cannot be undone.

“We are working with the Department for Transport and our contractors to assess these areas and their impacts while the review is ongoing.

““We are currently continuing as scheduled in south Cubbington to establish a compound, prepare the site for future work, install fencing and establish internal roads.

“This work also includes significant ecological mitigation as part of the HS2 green corridor programme, including tree planting and the creation of wildlife habitats. Eventually 60,000 trees will be planted in south Cubbington with around a third of those already in the ground.”

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