SOLIHULL: Dismay as ancient tree is felled due to HS2 works
Villagers in Solihull were dismayed after an ancient tree – believed to be centuries old – was felled as part of the HS2 project.
Residents had questioned why the expansive oak, which left a stump some 4ft across and was estimated to have stood for up to 250 years, had to be removed.
Despite pleas from those keen to see it saved the specimen, near Waste Lane, Balsall Common, had been chopped down last month.
HS2 Ltd had rejected the suggestion it had been removed “on the off chance” that the land would be needed and insisted that it always worked to minimise its clearance works.
The site in question is near the Greenway, an popular byway which has had to be diverted because of the scheme.
Richard Chadwick, 50, who lives nearby, was among those who had been deeply saddened to see the loss of a “beautiful old tree that can never, ever be replaced”.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “The person who has made that decision hasn’t ever been to the site, they have a plan to look at in the office and it’s just another tree.
“But in fact it’s an important piece of the environment.”
Vegetation clearance in this area and the wider parishes of Balsall and Berkswell has been among the most controversial aspects of the scheme’s early stages.
Only last week, Solihull councillors suggested more needed to be done to keep residents informed, amid warnings that it was often the more local works rather than major infrastructure changes which inflamed tensions.
HS2 Ltd has said that all clearance work was “carefully planned” and that the area at Waste Lane had been needed to provide additional space along the route of the line for “enabling works”.
A spokeswoman said: “HS2 aims to minimise our impact on the environment and we have carefully designed our works to reduce the loss of trees wherever possible.
“In this location, vegetation clearance has always been part of our published plans because we need the land in order to build the railway.”
HS2’s supporters have argued that while tree felling grabs the headlines, greenery is also being planted along the route – with the 700,000th tree on the Birmingham-London stretch having recently gone in the ground.
Although critics maintain that the environmental mitigation is no substitute for habitats and landmarks which have been a feature of the local landscape for generations.
A report by the Wildlife Trusts, published early last year, suggested 108 ancient woodlands would be lost or significantly impacted by the scheme.
Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter
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