Ancient Woodlands marked out under HS2 threat

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Ancient woodlands across Crackley and Burton Green have been given protected status in what may lead to greater protection under the looming threat of HS2.

Campaigners from The Woodland Trust are celebrating after 18 months of government lobbying led to 14 new sites across the UK being given protected ancient woodland status this summer.

That these woods have finally been registered as ancient is both welcome and cause for great concern

Austin Brady

But they say the news is not all good as nearly all of these woods will be destroyed or damaged when the HS2 tracks are laid between London and Birmingham.

After appealing to Natural England, which heads up the ancient woodland inventory, the Trust welcomed the new sites - eight of which are in Warwickshire.

Among those directly threatened by the line are Birches Wood near Crackley, Little Poors Wood and BlackWaste Wood near Burton Green, and Burnt Firs near Offchurch - all of which are now mapped and recognised ancient woodland.

Also on the new list are Big Poors Wood near Burton Green and an unnamed Wood near Stoneleigh which are set to be indirectly affected by noise, vibration and dust further out from the line.

Austin Brady from the Woodland Trust, said: “That these woods have finally been registered as ancient is both welcome and cause for great concern.

“Their true value has been recognised and we can now push hard for damage to be avoided.

“Ancient woodland should be top of HS2’s list of habitats to protect but in driving forward so quickly it is clearly failing to check the blind spots.”

Speaking in Parliament last week, MP Robert Goodwill confirmed that Natural England had added the 14 woods along the HS2 route to the Ancient Woodland Inventory.

It is thought that more than 108 acres of ancient woodland will be affected by noise, destruction or alterations alongside the high speed railway line. And the Woodland Trust has vowed to continue to fight against this.

HS2 spokesman Alastair Cowan said: “HS2 Ltd fully recognises the importance of our ancient woodlands.

“Wherever possible we have avoided ancient woodland when planning the route of this much-needed new railway.

“We have made a clear commitment to plant over two million trees, essentially creating brand new woodlands all along the first stage of the route between London and the West Midlands.”

The proposed HS2 route will see major earthworks and change to the countryside in what is being fought by campaigners along the line.

The hybrid bill is still progressing through Parliament.