In a question and answer session at the LibDem conference, a party members asked Nick Clegg
Q: Only 2% of Britain’s ancient woodlands are left. Shouldn’t the government block High Speed Rail (HS2).
In an admission of ignorance, Clegg announced that he did not know about HS2 and ancient woodland, but he was a “passionate supporter of HS2”.
HS2 will cause direct damage to 21 ancient woodland and pass within 50m of another 27. Ancient woodlands have been continually wooded since 1600: they are irreplaceable.
His answer included references to bold Victorians and then mentioned the need to “rewire the UK.
Maybe Clegg listened to former Conservative Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening, too much who talked a lot about Victorians whenever she mentioned HS2. But the Victorians did not do what proponents of HS2 want to do and copy what their ancestors did: the Victorians looked for what was new and exciting and had not been done before. Railways were new when the Victorians were building them but they are centuries old now.
What is new is the wiring that Clegg mentioned in answering the question: if he really wanted to be like the Victorians, Clegg would ditch HS2 and insist the Coalition spent some of the £33 billion HS2 cost on the 21st Century technology of digital infrastructure.
There is no question about the environmental costs of HS2: it’s bad for the 160 wildlife sites that Phase 1 cuts through and bad for ancient woodland.