HS2 '˜will devastate ancient woods and wildlife sites in Yorkshire', claim charities

Two environmental charities have condemned HS2's proposals for Yorkshire - saying the current plans for the high-speed line will destroy large swathes of ancient woodland and wildlife sites.

The Woodland Trust and the Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust have separately criticised the proposals for the planned line running up through South and West Yorkshire to a new HS2 station in Leeds.

More than 26,000 people have signed a Woodland Trust petition against the proposals for the Phase 2b route from Birmingham to Leeds, while the Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust said HS2 has provided a “lack of evidence compared to what we would normally expect to see” in the environmental plan they have put out to public consultation.

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At least 19 ancient woodlands are to be affected by the currently-planned route, with the biggest loss expected to be 4.1 hectares on the North Derbyshire/South Yorkshire border at Nor Wood, near Killamarsh on the outskirts of Sheffield. Four more ancient woodlands - defined as land that has been continuously wooded since at least 1600 - in South Yorkshire and one in West Yorkshire are also due to be affected.

Concerns have been raised about the environmental impact of HS2 in Yorkshire.

Abi Bunker, director of conservation and external affairs at The Woodland Trust, said: “The tremendous reaction to our campaign shows the overwhelming opposition to the destruction of this rare and irreplaceable habitat. It’s about time HS2 sat up and listened to the groundswell of public opinion.

“They cannot continue to ride roughshod over our precious habitats like this. We stand to lose not just the woodland but the hundreds of species that call it home, and once it’s gone it’s gone forever as no amount of replanting can compensate for the loss.”

Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust has also expressed concerns about the route through South Yorkshire affecting six local wildlife sites, including a nature reserve known for birds at Firsby Reservoir, Rotherham.

Liz Ballard, Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust chief executive, said: “On the basis of the information currently available, we strongly object to the proposed scheme in Sheffield and Rotherham.

“Whilst we appreciate this is a working draft, the lack of evidence available compared to what we would normally expect to see in an Environmental Statement makes it impossible for us to objectively assess and offer any constructive comment on the proposals. There is simply not enough information available to review the scheme at this time.

“It is also high time that HS2 Ltd met the same requirements of all other developers, as set out in Government policy, to seek a ‘net gain’ for wildlife.”

An HS2 Ltd spokesman said: “HS2 aims to be one of the most environmentally-responsible infrastructure projects ever delivered in the UK. We are committed to reducing the potential impact on the natural environment and aim to build a railway that supports new wildlife habitats, woodlands and community spaces which future generations can enjoy.

“Local communities, the Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust have a huge role to play. Their feedback will help us to design and build the best possible railway, and we have encouraged them to have their say and take part in the public consultation.”

A 10-week public consultation on its plans for the route came to an end on December 21, with finalised proposals set to be put before Parliament in 2020.