I have now had a further discussion with the management of HS2 Limited about the potential removal of ancient woodlands as part of HS2 preparatory works. As you know, the Secretary of State at my urging has said that ancient woodlands should not be removed pending the completion of the current review into the future of HS2, unless their removal is shown to be absolutely necessary to avoid major cost and schedule impacts, should the scheme proceed as planned. The key questions therefore are which parts of the ancient woodlands do HS2 limited seek to argue meet that definition and who will determine what constitutes absolutely necessary and major cost and schedule impacts.
I was told yesterday that HS2 limited have not yet completed their review of ancient woodlands along the route to enable them to make those arguments but they hope to do so early next week. The assurances I have been given today, are as follows:
1. Contractors will take no action to remove trees in ancient woodlands until positively instructed to do so by HS2 limited.
2. No such instruction will given until at the earliest the 1st of October.
3. No such instruction will be given until HS2 limited have informed me of the areas of ancient woodland that they say meet the exception I referred to above and I have had the opportunity to make further representations on this point to HS2 limited and if necessary to the Secretary of State.
I entirely understand your ongoing concern about this matter. The focus of my efforts as you know is on irreplaceable ancient woodland. You may see ongoing works which are not the removal of ancient woodlands themselves but the assurances I have been given I expect to be honoured. Please let me know if you have evidence of them being breached. I remain in touch with HS2 limited and will be visiting Cubbington Wood myself today.