By Oliver Newham, Lead Campaigner of The Woodland Trust.
As regular readers of the StopHS2 website will know, there is much to be angry about with the HS2 project. Not only does the scheme have huge social and financial costs for communities; it has major environmental implications too.
Who for instance wants a speeding train charging through their green country fields, it disturbing the river they’ve quietly fished in for decades, or cutting up the woodland they have played in since childhood?
One of the key things we’ve been campaigning for at the Woodland Trust is to protect our country’s oldest woods and trees from the impacts of the scheme. To stop such madness as putting temporary works where an ancient oak tree currently stands, or to stop 10.2 hectares of irreplaceable ancient woodland being lost to Phase 2a alone.
Yesterday we learnt of the decision by the HS2 Phase 2a select committee, a group of five MPs, to ignore the environmental costs of the project. We, alongside farmers, local residents and Staffordshire County Council have been making the case to them for a tunnel extension from Whitmore to Madeley.
Costing £116m (or £176m if you take HS2 Ltd’s estimate) this tunnel extension instantly saves 60% of the ancient woodland threatened on this section of the route. It would have other major benefits too, from decreasing agricultural land lost, to less homes being demolished. The committee said the tunnel extension was too expensive so it was a ‘no’. This is, quite simply, shameful. Out of a £55.7 billion project spending pot, they were not willing to put a fraction of the budget towards saving a habitat that is so unique it can’t be recreated. Its loss can only be compensated for.
On the one hand we could spend our time demanding the Committee justify their decision, pressing them to reconsider and think again. But they are set, their minds made up.
So we are now targeting Nusrat Ghani, the minister responsible for the HS2 project. We are calling on her to do the right thing and tell HS2 Ltd to build the tunnel extension anyway. Will she listen? We don’t yet know, but we have to try. We know you have been through a lot with HS2 but we would appreciate your support in this. The campaign action is here. You can also get advice and support for your local woods and trees under threat from HS2 by contacting Jack Taylor, the communities lead on HS2 for the Woodland Trust at email@example.com Thank you
The ‘Save Whitmore Wood’ petition can be found here.