Fears HS2 route could damage four ancient woods in South Yorkshire

HS2 train.
HS2 train.

Conservationists have raised concerns that four ancient woods in South Yorkshire could be destroyed or damaged by the high-speed rail route.

Analysis by the Woodland Trust revealed route proposals for the £56bn HS2 scheme could impact on woodland that has existed in the county since at least 1600.

Map issued by the Woodland Trust.

Map issued by the Woodland Trust.

The Trust said Nicker Wood near Aston is 'threatened with a direct loss' while Stables Wood in Barnburgh, Watchely Crag Wood in Hooton Pagnell and Howell Wood in Grimethorpe are close enough to be 'threatened by damaging secondary effects including noise, dust and lighting.'

Across the country a total of 24 ancient woods will be affected by 'Phase 2' of the project, after around 63 were previously affected in 'Phase 1', the organisation added.

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, said: "Any loss or damage to ancient woodland is a catastrophe for the natural environment, particularly when you consider how little we have left.

"Just two per cent of the UK’s land area is made up of these precious and irreplaceable habitats, so for large infrastructure projects like HS2 to be riding roughshod over them, rather than setting an example to avoid them, is totally unacceptable.

“With the trail of destruction HS2 Ltd will cause to ancient woodland, it will never be able to call this project ‘green’ – so far, it’s been an absolute disgrace. HS2 Ltd will say it’s planting millions of trees along the route – that’s all well and good, but no amount of new trees can ever recreate ancient woodland.”

An initial plan for HS2 would have seen high-speed trains stop at a newly built station at Meadowhall shopping centre but this was scrapped over traffic fears and concerns about knocking down part of the shopping outlet. Reopening Sheffield's Victoria Station was also deemed to be too expensive and there were concerns over potential flooding.

A new route was agreed in November last year and involves a 5.5 mile ‘spur’ close to the M18 into Sheffield’s existing railway station off a route running closer to Rotherham and Doncaster. Project leaders say will be around £900m cheaper than the Meadowhall option. This option has caused controversy as it would result in a number of properties being demolished on the Shimmer Estate in Mexborough, Doncaster, to make way for the trainline.

It is envisaged construction on Phase Two will start in 2022 with completion by 2032. It will connect major cities including Sheffield, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds with high-speed rail.

A spokeswoman for HS2 said: “The railway – which is crucial for the UK’s future economic prosperity – will avoid ancient woodlands wherever possible. Compensating for unavoidable ancient woodland loss is vital and HS2 Ltd is doing as much, if not more, than has ever been done before. We engage regularly with the Woodland Trust and will be seeking their input on Phase Two to build on the work we have already done and will be undertaking in more detail.”