The HS2 Bill continues to wend its way through the democratic process; it has now passed out of the House of Commons and into the House of Lords.
Along with many of you, we closely followed the petitioning process in the Commons, learning all sorts of things about the very distinct parliamentary legal processes for this kind of a Bill along the way, culminating in our appearance in Committee Room 2A to give our evidence to the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill Select Committee (Commons) in February this year.
The Committee has since reported on all the evidence it received and had some positive elements. We were particularly pleased to see the following in the Government’s subsequent response:
"89. The Promoter will work with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to identify an appropriate independent body to review the no net loss calculations."
Ancient woodland under threat
This is a very positive step towards securing real compensatory planting for any unavoidable biodiversity loss along the route. Yet under the current proposals the HS2 scheme still directly damages or destroys 34 ancient woodlands. In addition, 29 will suffer harm through indirect effects.
Ancient woodland is an irreplaceable resource of great importance for its wildlife, soils, recreation, cultural value, history and the contribution it makes to our diverse landscapes. It is a scarce resource, covering only 2% of the UK’s land area. That a Government backed project can cause such destruction continues to be shocking.
As such we will be continuing to fight for ancient woodland as the Bill passes into the House of Lords. The members of the new Lords Committee have not yet been announced but we are expecting to hear by 14 April.
How you can help
The Bill has now entered its petitioning phase. And just like with the Commons committee, if you are directly affected by the provisions of the Bill you can submit a written petition that sets out your concerns with the Bill.
This must follow very formal guidelines but the good news is there is a very helpful Petitioning Toolkit (PDF, 335KB) and template available online (PDF, 224KB) and the language used is a little more modern than in the Commons.
Even more helpfully, you can submit your petition by email (the deadline is 18 April) with a hard copy following in the post, there is no need to deliver it in person as was required by the Commons.
If you are petitioning against the Bill please do remember ancient woodland in your petition. The more people that speak up for this irreplaceable habitat the better.
Needless to say, here at the Trust, we are working hard on our new petition and fighting to get the best deal for ancient woodland and all those who enjoy it.