HS2 Ltd has confirmed to the Woodland Trust it will begin the futile act of attempting to move the soil from five ancient woodlands during April.

The move goes against both conservation principles and guidance from Natural England.

The five sites are Broadwells Wood, Birches Wood, Crackley Wood, and Ashow Road, all in Warwickshire, and Fulfen Wood in Staffordshire. The work will take around eight weeks.

Trust ecologist Luci Ryan said:

“Instead of bursting into life, these irreplaceable ancient woodlands now face imminent death.

“Attempting to move ancient woodland soils from one site to another is flawed. Attempting it in April doubly so. Add into the mix that the contractor doing it has never translocated ancient woodland nor visited a translocated site and it’s a recipe for disaster. It’s like getting a bike mechanic to service a Boeing.”

Translocation is defined as the physical removal of a habitat from one location to another in an attempt to offset the impact of development on the ecological interest of a site. Unfortunately, it is increasingly being suggested as a form of environmental compensation for proposed developments. However, translocation is not feasible for ancient woodland because ancient woodland is defined as an irreplaceable habitat. Natural England guidance clearly states that an “ancient woodland ecosystem cannot be moved”. It is therefore not an appropriate alternative to conservation in situ.

Translocation of ancient woodland involves moving soils and sometimes coppiced tree stumps to a receptor site in the vain hope some habitat is salvageable, but there is very little evidence of its success. The complex communities found in ancient woodland are a product of the interaction between unique geographical and historical factors taking place over many centuries; interactions that simply cannot be replicated.

If translocation is attempted it must be carried out in late autumn/early winter when plants are dormant.  HS2 had previously agreed to do this, but now appears to have changed its mind due to costs increasing and timeframes slipping. The Woodland Trust wants to see the work halted and carried out at the correct time of year.

Mrs Ryan added:

“HS2 Ltd has admitted it is acting against industry standards by doing the work now, when ancient woodland is bursting into life. We are shocked at their approach.  Protection of the environment continues to play second fiddle to costs and timetables.”

Notes to editors

For media enquiries only please contact 01476 581121 or deesmith@woodlandtrust.org.uk.  Interviews can be arranged via phone or Skype but not on site.

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims:

  1. protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  2. restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  3. plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,200 sites in its care covering over 29,000 hectares. Access to its woods is free.

The five ancient woods being translocated and destroyed in April are:

Broadwells Wood

Grid reference: SP280752

Size: 15.69ha

Loss: 3.2ha

Details: This is the single biggest loss of ancient woodland on Phase 1.  Known to be home to many species of bat, including common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared, Daubenton’s, noctule and Myotis species.  HS2’s Environmental Impact Assessment identified it contained suitable otter habitat including for potential breeding.  Active badger setts present.

Crackley Wood

Grid reference: SP289742

Size: 5.6ha

Loss: 0.9ha

Details: Marsh tit (red list) recorded 2015.  HS2’s Environmental Statement mentions newts, and bats. Activity surveys revealed common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared,

Daubenton’s, noctule and Myotis species of bats in habitats within the land required for construction. Myotis species are rare for Warwickshire. Suitable otter habitat identified in EIA.

Unnamed wood near Ashow Road

Grid reference: SP323725

Size: 1.68ha

Loss: 0.2ha

Details: High levels of bat activity around this woodland and Stoneleigh Business Park including common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, Daubenton’s, noctule, brown long-eared and calls identified as Myotis species. A low level of Leisler’s bat activity has been recorded during static surveys.

Birches Wood

Grid reference: SP2885574610

Size: 0.6ha

Loss: 0.6ha

Details: 0.6ha of loss, which is the entire wood.  HS2 did not treat this as an ancient woodland at the time the Environmental Statement was published, therefore we have little information about it. 

Fulfen Wood

Grid reference: SK148098

Size: 1.01ha

Loss: 0.4ha

Details: Common and soprano pipistrelles  present and occasional Myotis species.  Bat roost within this wood to be lost to the scheme.