Ancient woodland in Nottinghamshire threatened by HS2 Phase Two plans, says Woodland Trust

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Ancient woods in Nottinghamshire are threatened as Phase Two of HS2 takes shape, the Woodland Trust has said.

Analysis by the conservation charity of route proposals for the high speed line shows the northern section of the route will impact a minimum of 24 ancient woods – five of them in Nottinghamshire.

However HS2 Ltd said the railway – which will link London, Birmingham, the East Midlands, Leeds and Manchester – will avoid ancient woodlands wherever possible.

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The trust's chief executive Beccy Speight 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 percent 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."

Ancient woodland is a descriptive term used to group woods that share centuries of continuity on largely undisturbed natural soils.

The trust estimates that New Farm Wood, in Nuthall, and Watnall Coppice, in Hucknall, will be lost entirely if the proposed route goes ahead.

A further three in Nottinghamshire are close enough to be threatened by "damaging effects", such as noise, dust and lighting, the trust has said.

Ms Speight said: "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."

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HS2 is a new high-speed rail line connecting a host of cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

Phase 1 is due to open in December 2026 and will see trains travel between London and Birmingham, before running on from Birmingham on the existing West Coast Main Line.

Phase 2 has two separate parts. Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe will launch in 2027.

And phase 2b – from Crewe to Manchester, and also from the West Midlands to Leeds, South Yorkshire and the East Midlands – will open in 2033.

This last bit is the section coming through parts of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. A station at Toton Sidings has also been earmarked.

A spokesperson for HS2 said: "HS2 is more environmentally responsible than any major infrastructure project in UK history.

"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 building on the work we have already done and will be undertaking in more detail."

The route is expected to be finalised by the end of 2017.