High Speed Rail Bill heading to the House of Commons

Whilst construction work has started on Phase 1 of HS2, the HS2 Phase 2a: High Speed Rail (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill has begun to wend its way through the democratic process. Along with many of you, we petitioned on the Phase 1 Bill, though this will be a new experience for lots of communities further up the line.

Although a Hybrid Bill follows an onerous bureaucratic, and at times frustrating, process, we cannot urge you strongly enough to engage with it. This is your one opportunity to influence the route before it becomes enshrined in law. But the good news is that lots of lessons have been learnt and the Government’s guidance has been updated for the 21st century, alongside this there is a clear template on which to create your petition. It is worth noting that if you petitioned on Phase 1 that this is a different template which must be used.

Although we are still wrangling over issues on Phase 1, our petitioning did contribute to some significant improvements on the Phase 1 scheme. Most notable was the extension of the Chilterns Tunnel and the removal of temporary works, such as construction compounds and stockpiles, from ancient woodland.

Ancient woodland needs protecting

Ancient woodland is an irreplaceable habitat, 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 2.7% of England’s land area. Meanwhile, ancient trees outside ancient woodland can be hundreds of years old, provide habitat for many different species and are part of our landscape and cultural heritage. The ancient woodlands along the proposed HS2 railway line are all notable for their differing contributions to landscape, amenity, culture and biodiversity. That a Government backed project can cause such destruction continues to be shocking.

Whitmore Wood in Staffordshire where 6ha of ancient woodland could be destroyed, the biggest loss along the route to date (Photo: Adrian Ashworth)
Whitmore Wood in Staffordshire where 6ha of ancient woodland could be destroyed, the biggest loss along the route to date (Photo: Adrian Ashworth)

Whilst we are in favour of green transport and have no objection to HS2 in principle, we object strongly to the proposed route. Current proposals for Phase 2a set out that at least 10.5ha of ancient woodland is to be lost. When calculated as loss per kilometre of track constructed, this represents an increase of 23% compared to Phase 1. This is very disappointing and shows important lessons are not being learned as the scheme progresses. All the more reason to keep pushing the government as the Bill progresses.

How you can help

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 and how the Bill Committee can help. This must follow the guidelines and use the template provided.

If you are petitioning against the Bill, please do remember ancient woodland in your submission. The more people that speak up for this irreplaceable habitat the better. Don’t forget the deadline for your submission is 5pm on Monday 26 February. 

You can sign up to updates on the Bill by emailing prbohoc@parliament.uk. This is such a specialised area it is very new for most people. The Bill office is also really helpful when it comes to answering tricky questions.

If you have any specific questions on ancient woods and trees along the route, please get in touch at campaigning@woodlandtrust.org.uk. We are happy to share our thoughts with you to make sure we are all shouting up for our ancients as loudly as we can.

Needless to say, we are working hard on our own submission and fighting to get the best deal for ancient woodland and all those who enjoy it.

Unfortunately, if you are not directly affected by the route then you are not allowed to petition Parliament. The best way to stay up to date - and help us keep up the pressure - is to add your support to our Enough is Enough campaign.

Irreplaceable habitats deserve better than this

Speak up for ancient woodland