Save England’s Ancient Forests

Target: David Prout, Director General of HS2, Department for Transport

Goal: Change plan that will clear out 33 of England’s ancient forests for a high-speed rail system.

Under a current plan, 33 forests will be cleared, disturbed or reduced to accommodate a new railway line, with an additional 34 seeing secondary impacts. HS2, or High Speed Two, is a £56 billion high-speed rail system currently in development in the United Kingdom. The railway line, which would connect several major cities including Birmingham, Sheffield, and Manchester, has been approved by Parliament, though final plans for the line are still being negotiated.

HS2 has recently come under fire for its potential impacts to more than sixty ancient forests, and has seen opposition from the Green Party, who previously supported the plan for its potential to reduce carbon emissions. Some environmental advocacy groups have proposed alternative plans that would circumvent impacts on many potentially affected forests.

Secondary impacts could include pollution, physical disturbance, noise, and other negative effects. The affected woodlands are described as “ancient woods,” a designation assigned to areas that have remained continuously forested since the beginning of the 17th century. Having seen little disturbance over their lifespan of several centuries, these forests have developed into uniquely biodiverse and complex ecosystems, and are an invaluable ecological and cultural resource. 

England’s ancient woods are a high and unnecessary cost to pay for a high speed railway line, regardless of its expected positive outcomes. Though the HS2 plan is commendable for its potential to reduce carbon emissions, its proposed removal of richly forested areas, which provide carbon sequestration, somewhat negates this potential benefit. Demand the creators of HS2 present a revised plan that shows a commitment to preservation of England’s ancient woods, and that minimizes both primary and secondary impacts from this high speed railway.


Dear Mr. Prout,

Seeing little impact and continuously forested since 1600, England’s ancient woods have developed into incredibly biodiverse communities of flora and fauna. These forests are national treasures of great environmental and cultural import. The current HS2 plan involves cutting, clearing or reducing 33 of these forests, and impacting at least 34 more with secondary effects such as pollution and physical disturbance.

While we commend HS2 for its potential to reduce carbon emissions, we can’t consider the project truly environmentally friendly when it involves heavy impacts to ancient woods. We, the undersigned, are not willing to sacrifice more than 60 ancient forests, some of our richest and most important ecological resources, for a high speed railway. We demand that the HS2 plan be revised to minimize both primary and secondary impacts on ancient woods.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Keith Hulbert and Paul Zarucki

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  1. Frances Calcraft says:

    Such lands should be set aside as parks and protected from development.

  2. Im surprised we need to do a petition to save our oxygen makers. We are learning more and more about how important the ancient forests are. Replacing with saplings isnt enough.

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