Fury as trees felled in Staffordshire woods to make way for HS2

Campaigners have accused HS2 of destroying Staffordshire’s countryside after hundreds of trees were felled in two ancient woodland areas.

Trees have been felled at Little Lyntus wood, Lichfield, to make way for HS2, sparking protests
Trees have been felled at Little Lyntus wood, Lichfield, to make way for HS2, sparking protests

Over the past week the majority of the trees in Little Lyntus and Fulfen woods, near Lichfield, have been chopped down to make way for the £106 billion line, which will carve through 45 miles of countryside in the county on its way to the North West.

It came as HS2 was hit by a series of demonstrations along sections of the line, including one at Jones' Hill Wood in Buckinghamshire where activists disrupted work by sitting in makeshift treehouses.

At Little Lyntus and Fulfen woods around 30 activists gathered to voice their opposition to the budget-busting line. Protesters at the site held up banners with messages including “honk if you hate HS2”, and vowed to return in the near future to continue to make their feelings known.

Protesters at the scene of HS2 work, near Little Lyntus wood

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust has accused HS2 Ltd of “breaking assurances” that work in Lichfield would not start before October 1.

HS2 said it plans to "translocate" the woods to a nearby site in the coming weeks.

Luci Ryan, from the Woodland Trust, said the work had been carried out "at the wrong time of year", a move which would "only serve to increase the damage they have done and the risk that the translocation will fail."

"To think they can replicate complex, centuries-old eco-systems is simply wrong," she added.

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, said: "Sites like this should be protected from this devastation."

Controversy – Some of the felled trees are piled up at the site

HS2 insists the line is "one of the most environmentally responsible infrastructure projects ever delivered in the UK", and says that around 80,000 trees have been planted across the country.

MPs passed legislation giving HS2 the green light earlier this year, although critics have urged Ministers to reconsider the project in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, said: "Common sense dictates there ought to be a rethink on HS2 or at least the route it is taking.

"It is the considered view of many that once Covid is defeated, there will not be a return to the old normal.

Hundreds of trees have been felled at ancient woodland areas near Lichfield (credit: @StaffsWildlife)

"In particular, the commuting pattern we have seen in the past will discontinue, with many office workers continuing to work from home.

"Thus, the argument that there needs to be extra capacity on the rail network may no longer apply, putting the whole question of whether we need HS2 up in the air again."

Stop HS2 campaigner Matt Bishop, said: "In the Covid era, HS2 is already out of date. Declared unachievable by the National Audit Office, we cannot afford it – financially or ecologically.

"We are in a time of crisis and our country now has more pressing needs.

Hundreds of trees have been felled at ancient woodlands near Lichfield (credit: @StaffsWildlife)

"The Government should demonstrate its commitment to democracy by holding a referendum, a free vote in parliament, or a citizens’ assembly on the future of HS2. The opinion polls show that the people do not want HS2."

The protest at Jones' Hill Wood, which inspired Roald Dahl's much-loved books, saw Thames Valley Police make a series of arrests following clashes between protesters and authorities.

Protests also took place at the Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve in Buckinghamshire – where environmentalists said HS2 had obliterated ancient woodland – and a four-day Stop HS2 event was launched in Leamington Spa.

Boris Johnson has said HS2 will create 20,000 jobs and “fire up” economic growth in the wake of the pandemic.

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