Trust, worthy

The Woodland Trust is refreshingly single-minded about HS2; it “opposes the current route of the proposed High Speed 2 rail link because of its impact on precious ancient woodland”.

According to the Trust, “Ancient woods come under threat all the time from development”. The Trust sees this threat as affecting ancient woodland in two ways: “direct loss”, and “degradation from neighbouring land use”. HS2 will pose both levels of threat. The Trust has identified 21 ancient woods on Phase 1 and 12 on Phase 2 that it claims will be “destroyed”, and 34 ancient woods that will be “indirectly at risk” over both phases.

Not surprisingly, the Trust regards ancient woodland as a precious resource, and claims that this habitat is “home to 256 species of priority concern”. The concern for the future of this resource is clear:

“Over time our ancient woodland has been cleared for farming and other land uses; it now covers only 2 per cent of the UK. Most ancient woods that remain are very small, and often they exist as islands within a sea of built development or intensive farmland, both of which can be inhospitable to wildlife.”

In addition to the direct loss of ancient woodland, the Trust identifies a less obvious threat:

“The fragmentation of ancient woodland (and other important natural habitats) is a threat to woodland wildlife. It reduces the total amount of the habitat, increases the vulnerability of remaining areas to detrimental effects of neighbouring land use, and increases their isolation. Reduction in total area means local extinction of rare and vulnerable species is more likely, and increased isolation means less exchange between populations, reducing their viability and ability to adapt to change.”

So running HS2 through an area of ancient woodland has a far greater potential effect on the ecology of the area than the loss of a few trees.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has read my blog The answer lies in the soil (posted 8 Mar 2012) that the Trust also has this to say:

“Ancient woods are irreplaceable. Newly planted woodland will develop some value for wildlife, but, planted on soils that have been modified by human activity, they are unlikely ever to attain all the natural characteristics of an ancient wood, and certainly will not accumulate the same cultural value.”

In view of its analysis, the Trust could hardly be anything other than implacably opposed to the current HS2 proposal. In a shining example to some other environmental NGOs, the Trust has been very vocal in its opposition to HS2 and has supported and advised the campaign against the project. My own group benefitted from a tangible example of such support earlier this year, when a large delegation of experts from the Trust visited our local ancient woodland to learn, first hand, the impacts that HS2 would have.

However, like many of us, the Trust has taken a pragmatic view of the HS2 project. It recognises that it has a significant role to play in ensuring, if the Government remains deaf to the pleas to review its plans, that the damage is minimised and the mitigation is sufficient and appropriate. To this end, the Trust is trying to engage meaningfully with HS2 Ltd.

The Trust has also recently taken an important step in providing advice to community groups faced with the impacts of HS2 on local woodland with the publication of High Speed Rail: woods, trees and wildlife – A toolkit for communities.

Woodland_Trust_toolkitThe Trust explains the purpose of this document as follows:

“This toolkit shows you how to build woods and trees effectively into your plans and campaigns. It explains the impact of developments like High Speed 2 on wildlife. It also explains why we need woods and trees in our landscape, and gives some suggestions for including these in mitigation proposals in a way that maximises benefits to your community.”

All of the statements made by the Trust that I have reproduced in this blog may be found in the toolkit.

You can obtain your own copy of the toolkit by completing the on-line request form; it will be posted to you free of charge.

It is intended that the contents of the toolkit will be supplemented by a range of additional factsheets that “will be produced as things evolve”. These fit conveniently into a pocket provided at the rear of the toolkit. At the time of posting this blog the following factsheets have been published:

HS2 Environmental Impact Assessment Factsheet (here)

Bigger, better, more joined up- What is the Lawton Review? (here)

Buffers, part 1 (here)

Buffers, part 2 (here)

Compensation and Mitigation for Biodiversity Loss (here)

Noise and Vibration: impact of trees and woodland (here)

What is Translocation? (here)

Restoring ancient woods as compensation (here)

Draft Environmental Statement – How to reply (here)

Tunnels, Cuttings and Embankments – Impacts on Ancient Woodland (here)

An up-to-date list of the available factsheets may be viewed here.

Taken together, the toolkit and the factsheets are almost encyclopaedic in scope and are packed full of expert advice; they should equip us all better to tackle that small task of responding to the consultation on the Draft Environmental Specification. Now where did I put my copies?


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Nikki Williams on June 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Thank you for this very supportive blog Peter. I am glad the toolkits are useful


  2. Posted by Andrew Heenan on June 28, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    It was a sad, sad day that the Woodland Trust decided to become nothing but another nimby organisation (as if there aren’t enough of them).

    In the unlikely event that your “implacable opposition” succeeds, don’t start whining about the inevitable exponential motorway expansion, which will – as always – take much more ancient woodland. HS2 will take relatively little gound, much of it will be (and more can be) underground. You can’t put motorways underground.

    Once national organisations become locally partisan, they become irrelevant.


    • I think that you will find Andrew that it is impossible for a nationally-based organisation to be classified as “nimby” unless you regard the whole of the Country as its backyard, of course. A nimby is someone who doesn’t want development because it is close to where he lives, but is happy for that development to be someone else’s problem.
      As for the point about putting HS2 underground, if you read my blog “Up the garden path” (posted 28 May 2013) you will see that my own attempts to save our local ancient woodland by tunnelling have been given scant consideration by HS2 Ltd.


      • Posted by Andrew Heenan on June 28, 2013 at 7:51 pm

        Weasel words. Rtaher than a constructive approach – which might have achieved more tunnels, and certainly would have got sympathy in dealing with marginal land, The Woodland Trust has chosen to throw in its lot with avowed nimbys, in ‘implacable opposition” – one of your fellow marketeers has not only admitted this nimbyism, but sought to make a virtue of it.

        I notice you ignored my key point that the outcome, should you succeed, will be significantly worse for England’s woodland.

        I’ve supported the trust for years – I’ve even bitten my tongue when the trust made doubtful deals to subsidize private landowners woodland work – but this is a step too far. I cannot support an organisation whose policies are so ill thought out, and so parochial in world view. I suspect I’m not alone.

        No reply necessary or expected; I’ll not be back.

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