‘Ancient woods to be dug up and moved elsewhere’ to make way for HS2

Justine Greening
Justine Greening
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PROPOSALS to move ancient woodlands if they get in the way of the planned HS2 line show an out of touch ‘city dwellers view of the environment’ according to campaigners.

Transport secretary Justine Greening said she would consider ‘transplanting woodland to an adjacent site’ if it needed to be dug up to make way for the planned high speed rail line.

The comment, made in a letter to Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan, has been branded ‘absolute nonsense’ by environmental campaigners .

Steve Rodrick, chief officer of the Chilterns Conservation Board, said: “It is not possible to transplant ancient woodland successfully.

“You can transplant some of it but what you end up with won’t be ancient woodland. Ancient woodland is special because over millennia it has evolved its own ecosystem including soils, roots, fungi, which are lost when disturbed.

“It is absolute nonsense to suggest that any valuable habitat can simply be trans-located by scooping it up and replanting it. I am not aware of any successful example. The idea isn’t credible and frankly not even worth debating.”

Penny Gaines, of Quainton, social media director of the Stop HS2 campaign group, said: “There are woods around Calvert and Finmere, which the line passes close by and that is just in Bucks.

“There is something like 21 woodlands that are likely to be disturbed and then another 30-odd that could be affected.

“The essential point is that it is not just the trees that matter, it is the whole habitat. It’s the soil as well that is part of this ancient woodland, then the flowers and bushes that make up the soil.

“Ancient woodland is defined as being 400 years old, that is the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

“There are woods being planted this year, at Waddesdon Manor, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II – that gives you a general sense of how long 400 years is.

“I thought this comment shows just how little Justine Greening knows about the environmental issues of HS2.

“One of the major problems is what is going to happen to the habitat and sites of special scientific interest, these are a fundamental part of our countryside. It is very much a city dwellers view of the natural environment.”

Stop HS2 campaign coordinator Joe Rukin said: “When the government start talking in all seriousness about transplanting ancient woodland, you begin to realise what really needs transplanting are some brains.”