Campaigners against HS2 call government decision to halt clearance of woodlands 'step in the right direction'

Campaigners against the high-speed railway HS2 have called this week’s decision to halt works at the ancient woodlands near Crackley, among others, as a step in the right direction.

Crackley Woods
Crackley Woods

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps ordered the removal of ancient woodlands for HS2 to be stopped during the independent review into the project - unless they are shown to be absolutely necessary.

The Transport Secretary told HS2 Ltd to review its ancient woodlands clearance programme – and assess what removals can be halted until after the completion of the review led by Doug Oakervee.

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HS2 will continue with other preparatory works which, if delayed, would have a damaging impact on cost and schedule if HS2 were to continue.

Image of proposed HS2 high-speed rail

The Transport Secretary said: “There is no sense in hiding the challenges HS2 faces, or masking the difficult decisions that need to be taken. So, as Douglas Oakervee’s review continues, we must take a sensible approach and recognise that some works simply cannot be undone later.

“This ensures we avoid irreversible decisions without major impacts on cost and schedule. HS2 may be a complex project overall, but I think this request is just common sense.”

Matt Bishop, with the Walk the Line - Stop HS2 group, said the decision by the Government was a step in the right direction.

Mr Bishop, who also organised a Save the Crackley Woods Family Fun Day event earlier this year, added: “Obviously, we’re over the moon by the statement. It’s good news.

“But it’s not enough. It’s got to be taken with a pinch of salt.

“Somebody independent has to decide what’s absolutely essential. It shouldn’t be left to HS2.”

Mr Bishop believes the whole project has undermined people’s faith in democracy.

He added: “The fact of the matter is we don’t need it. They need to upgrade what we’ve got and not wreck the countryside.”

Joe Rukin, a Kenilworth resident and Stop HS2 campaign manager, said the decision actually calls into question the credibility of the whole project.

He said: “Saying you can’t cut down ancient woodlands except for when you really have to is just window dressing.

“We know very well what to expect from HS2.

“Grant Shapps is being very naïve if he thinks HS2 Limited will not use the excuse he has given them to cut down as many ancient woodlands as possible.”