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UK forestry body warns of loss of ancient woodland if high speed rail goes ahead

July 24, 2011 - London

Britain's Forestry Commission has warned that almost 30 hectares of ancient woodland could be destroyed if the authorities give the green signal for the construction of a high speed railway line from London to Birmingham.

Ancient Woodland is defined as land that has been continually wooded since 1600, half of which has disappeared since the 1930s. The area now in question is environmentally alive with bluebells, rare butterflies and birds.

Altogether, some 125 hectares of woodland could be destroyed by the the line that will run through the Chilterns and Warwickshire, The Telegraph reports.

Though the David Cameron government has promised an extensive tree planting programme, with some two million trees along the rail corridor, the Forestry Commission and the Woodland Trust have warned that ancient woodland once lost can never be replaced.

Nikki Williams, the Woodland Trust's head of campaigning, said: "Once destroyed, it cannot be recreated with new trees, so it is literally irreplaceable. The unique conditions which exist here - the result of centuries of undisturbed soils and tree cover - makes this the UK's richest wildlife habitat for rare and threatened species," she said.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said more than two million pounds would be spent per mile to minimise the environmental impacts, as well as planting the two million trees, "the largest programme of tree planting in recent times."


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