Following evidence heard over the previous two weeks in relation to options for further Chilterns tunnelling on HS2 Phase 1, Mr Robert Syms MP, Chair of the High Speed Rail Bill Select Committee, has made a statement.
In it, the Committee concludes that not enough evidence has been heard to make the case for a long tunnel through the Chilterns but a further option to extend an existing proposal for a bored tunnel to South Heath Green may be possible.
Ancient woodland saved
If confirmed, such an extension at South Heath Green would save three ancient woods – Mantle’s Wood, Sibley’s Coppice and Farthings Wood in Buckinghamshire.
These woods are part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which provides habitat for the rare stag beetle, red kites, butterflies such as the orange tip and speckled wood as well as bluebells. Without the extension, 6.2 hectares of ancient woodland would be lost at Mantle’s Wood alone – the largest single loss on the whole route - with additional losses at Sibley’s Coppice and Farthings Wood adding up to a further 3 hectares. Overall, this tunnel extension could save approximately 9.2 hectares (equivalent to approximately 25 football pitches) of the 44 hectares threatened by Phase 1.
The Committee has asked HS2 Ltd to carry out further work to assess this option which, if considered "satisfactory", would lead to confirmation that these three woods are safe.
Nikki Williams, Head of Campaigning at the Woodland Trust, said:
“We have campaigned publically, lobbied behind the scenes, submitted reams of evidence to HS2 Ltd and the Committee, and our senior conservation advisor, Richard Barnes, even joined the official bus tour with the HS2 Select Committee recently on a visit to the Chilterns.
“While it’s disappointing that the full Chilterns tunnel appears to have been discounted so early, the Committee's recognition of the need to at least extend the tunnel far enough to save three ancient woods is hugely significant and a great relief – we urge HS2 Ltd now to gather what’s needed so that this amend can be confirmed.
"There are still 59 more ancient woods in the firing line on Phase 1 alone and we will continue to raise the need to avoid as much of this irreplaceable habitat as possible when we present evidence to the Committee in the coming months. We hope it will realise more must be done."
The Woodland Trust’s current estimate is that another 94 ancient woods will suffer loss or damage due to Phase 1 and 2 of HS2 combined. See our new map.
Show HS2 Ltd that a tunnel extension to save ancient woodland is needed by tweeting your support.
If you're not on social media, you can email your support for an extended tunnel to HS2enquiries@hs2.org.uk