In November, the Woodland Trust and a group of independent ecologists raised concerns about the potential for unlawful felling of ancient woodlands by HS2 Ltd. This was because there are a number of ancient woodlands on the Phase Route 1 of HS2 (between London and Birmingham) that are due for imminent felling and where no application had been made by HS2 Ltd for licences to legally disturb bats or destroy their roosts.

All bat species are protected by law. Where development could affect bat roosts an application for a licence needs to be made to Natural England before work can take place. The license, if granted, is to ensure that the impact of the work is fully assessed and mitigation measures will ensure the favourable conservation status of the resident bats.

Ancient woodlands are often home to bats because the undisturbed environment and old trees provide ideal habitat. HS2 Ltd’s own Environmental Statement states the presence of bats and bat roosts in and around a number of woods where felling will take place to construct the railway, including woods where so far no licence application has been made.

We have now received confirmation from HS2 Ltd that they will be applying for the required licences for all ancient woods, including those where concerns have been raised by the Woodland Trust. HS2 Ltd have also confirmed that no woodland clearance will take place at these woods until the required ecological surveys have been undertaken and Natural England have reviewed these and granted the required licence. The Trust will be writing to Natural England regarding procedures being fully followed for bats and other protected species.

Notes to editors

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The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters.

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 1,000 sites in its care covering over 29,000 hectares. Access to its woods is free.