It should be child’s play, part 2

(… continued from It should be child’s play, part 1, posted on 11 Sep 2015).

As I mentioned in part 1, Natural England has recently accepted some of the woodlands that would be affected by HS2 onto the Ancient Woodland Inventory (AWI). The answer to a House of Commons written question published on 7th July 2015 identifies sixteen new entries on the inventory that are “near the route of Phase 1 of High Speed 2”.

Just a handful of days later, the HS2 Phase One Supplementary Environmental Statement and Additional Provision 2 (July 2015) Environmental Statement was published. The Woodland Trust has taken the opportunity of these events to update its list of ancient woods that it considers will be damaged by HS2 Phase 1.

In the light of all of this new information it seemed a good time for me to update my own analysis of the twenty-six Community Forum Area (CFA) reports, taking account of any revisions in the Supplementary Environmental Statement (SES). I have summarised the fruits of this labour in a table and there are a few matters arising that I want to mention.

There are four woods in the sixteen identified in the Commons written answer that are not identified in the original Environmental Statement (ES) or SES as losing woodland to HS2:

  • Park Wood Common Plantation (in CFA 6), referred to in the ES as Common Plantation and Park Wood, is mentioned in the ES but is not identified as a site directly affected by HS2 and is not in the Woodland Trust list at all. In view of this, I have not included this wood in my table.
  • Fox Covert Whitfield (in CFA 14) is mentioned in the ES where it is claimed that none of the wood will be lost to HS2. It is, however, listed by the Woodland Trust as a wood that will suffer direct loss. In view of this, I have included this wood in my table, but have shown the area lost as zero.
  • Lodge Spinney (in CFA 16) is a wood that, according to the SES, “will not be impacted by the original or SES scheme” and is not in the Woodland Trust list at all. In view of this, I have not included this wood in my table.
  • Big Poors Wood (in CFA 18) is mentioned in the ES but is not identified as a site directly affected by HS2. The Woodland Trust list this wood as suffering an indirect impact. In view of this, I have not included this wood in my table.

The Non-technical summary of the SES states, on page 63, that the total of ancient woods that would lose land to HS2 has increased to thirty-seven and this tallies with my list, if Fox Covert Whitfield is excluded. However we still don’t appear to agree on the total area lost, which the SES reckons is approximately 44.5 ha and I have totalled at 51 ha.

The same passage of the SES also admits the error in the original HS2 Ltd total of nineteen affected woods that I identified in part 1 and confirms that this total should have been twenty-two. In typical HS2 Ltd style, the SES, instead of admitting to a cock-up, attributes the miscalculation to counting woods “located in close proximity as a single ancient woodland area”. Just how lacking in credibility this contrivance is can be seen from a version of HS2 Ltd drawing CT-10-064 that I have annotated with red stars to highlight the location of the four woods in question. They are clearly four separate woods, with the only possible claim that they are in “close proximity” being valid in the case of the leftmost two, John’s Gorse and Hanchwood House Wood. However, counting these four as a single wood is totally inconsistent with the approach taken in the other reports in Volume 2 of the ES and can only reasonably be accounted for by a failing of top level management of the document.

At least this belated and grudging admission serves to demonstrate that the strident defence of the nineteen figure by Ben Ruse that I referred to in part 1 was totally misjudged. Honestly, it’s like dealing with a bunch of petulant infants!

The Woodland Trust list of woods that will suffer direct loss runs to thirty-five and exhibits the following discrepancies when compared to the listing derived from the HS2 Ltd evaluation:

  • Fox Covert Whitfield is included despite the view of HS2 Ltd that there will be no land lost to HS2 within the ancient woodland area.
  • The Trust is sticking to its view that Long Itchington Wood would be directly affected. There is some support for this view in that HS2 Ltd’s own drawings show a small incursion into the margin of this wood (see footnote).
  • The unnamed wood near Stoneleigh is not included in the Trust’s list.
  • The unnamed wood off Drayton Lane is not included in the Trust’s list.
  • Weeford Park is listed by the trust as suffering indirect impact, but the ES identifies 1.4 ha lost to HS2.
  • Little Lyntus is not included in the Trust’s list.
  • The Trust has treated the western part of Ravenshaw Wood as a separate wood, identified as Slaish, despite the woodland appearing contiguous on the map.
  • Hanchwood House Wood is not included in the Trust’s list.

So we do appear to be moving closer towards a consensus, but are not there yet. It should be child’s play to get agreement, but it is not, apparently.

What is obvious from the latest releases of information is that HS2 is by far and away the biggest threat to England’s ancient woodlands that is on the horizon. I regard it as a national scandal that the Government and Parliament are apparently unmoved by this impending disaster. It is true that the recent request by the HS2 Select Committee that the Chilterns bored tunnel be extended, and subsequent acceptance in principle by the Government, should reduce the number of woods at risk by three, but that still leaves thirty-four that would suffer direct damage if the current plans remain unchanged.

I find it so frustrating that the Select Committee appears to be totally unmoved by the plight of this irreplaceable national asset, and is all too obviously equally unprepared to do anything about it. That they have moved to save three ancient woods is, I believe, purely a serendipitous outcome of those woods being within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, rather than any burning desire on the part of the Committee to reduce the ancient woodland carnage.

Footnote: As can be seen from the extract from HS2 Ltd map CT-05-087 that I have reproduced below, the area of “land potentially required for construction”, indicated by pink shading, clearly encroaches over the boundary of the wood.

Long_Itchington_Wood_tunnel_portalAcknowledgement: The Ordinance Survey mapping upon which the HS2 Ltd route design is overlaid has been reproduced in accordance with the principles of fair dealing as set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. On this basis, this mapping is:

Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO.

© Crown Copyright. All rights reserved.



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