CAMPAIGNERS have hit out at HS2 bosses after hundreds of tree sapling, meant to offset wildlife destruction caused by the high speed rail, died.
Project chiefs pledged to plant seven million trees to replace woodland earmarked to be cut down to make way for the 216km London to Birmingham line – 54km of which is set to cut through Warwickshire.
Ancient trees in Crackley Wood and Cubbington Wood will be among the casualties, including the latter’s 250-year-old wild pear tree.
But where trees have been replanted near Southam, farmers discovered the saplings had died during soaring temperatures last summer.
And HS2 has confirmed nearly 90,000 trees, of some 237,000 planted, needed to be replaced following the drought.
The firm says watering the saplings cost too much compared to replanting them.
A spokesman told the Observer: “HS2 Ltd is committed to planting seven million trees along the route of HS2 to create a green corridor of new habitat created for wildlife.
“The summer of 2018 was the hottest on record in England, with an average of just 35.4mm of rain falling in June, half the usual amount.
“During the 2017 to 2018 planting season, HS2 Ltd planted 236,762 trees. Because of the unexpected drought conditions during the summer, a total of 89,742 had to be replaced the following year, around 38 per cent of the trees planted.
“We estimate it would have cost around £2million to water the trees during the drought, so replacing these plants is a much more cost effective solution, as well as a more ethical use of resources during unprecedented conditions at the height of summer.”
When asked whether the replacement saplings would be watered, the spokesman added it depended on ‘whether it rained or not’.
Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin, from Kenilworth, said: “This is just one field in a catalogue of disasters from start to finish. It’s a monument to the institutional incompetence of HS2 and it’s just one of the many reasons why this project cannot be given notice to proceed.”
HS2 expects the new trees to increase existing woodlands by around 30 per cent.
But despite the optimistic claims, last year Warwickshire Wildlife Trust hit out at the plans saying the 40 hectares of the county’s ancient woodland set to be destroyed was unique and irreplaceable.