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High Speed 2 Railway Line: Forests

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 69141, tabled on 3 November 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if he will have discussions with the Secretary of State for Transport on the planned destruction of ancient woodlands to build HS2 and to ensure that future routes for HS2 do not destroy any ancient woodlands.

Answered on

22 November 2021

In 2018, the protection of ancient woodlands, ancient trees and veteran trees was strengthened through the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), recognising them as irreplaceable habitats. The NPPF also outlines that any development resulting in the loss or deterioration of such irreplaceable habitats should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and only if a suitable compensation strategy exists. HS2 is considered a wholly exceptional reason. Where effects on ancient woodland cannot be reasonably avoided then HS2 Ltd has committed to provide a range of compensation measures in response to these losses.

HS2 Ltd has sought to avoid impacts on ancient woodlands wherever possible. Where there is unavoidable loss of ancient woodland due to HS2, this will be addressed through a range of compensation measures. These include planting new native broadleaved woodland to enhance linkages between ancient woodlands, and by salvaging ancient woodland soils and seed banks to be used in new sites. On top of this, HS2 Ltd is working with the Forestry Commission to deliver a £7 million Woodland Fund (Phase 1 & 2a), which has been offering grants to support landowners and communities to create new native woodland and restore plantation on ancient woodland sites. This is expected to create hundreds of additional hectares of woodlands over and above the core mitigation works required and improve the condition of existing ancient woodland sites.

More broadly, in response to the Dasgupta Review the Government outlined our aim to deliver a net gain in biodiversity on the Crewe-Manchester HS2 leg.