Posted 11th Oct 2017 by Peter Byrne
Plans are underway to trash ancient woodland in a move which has been blasted as 'totally unacceptable'
Government road builder Highways England is pitching for a new bypass around Arundel in West Sussex. There are three routes up for consideration which would tear through a rare ancient woodland, and is home to the protected and threatened hazel dormouse – it's been put to the public vote.
Only a six km stretch of road could cause a scale of woodland loss in the same bracket as national infrastructure HS2.
There are just five days to go until the consultation deadline (October 16) and the Woodland Trust is urging the public to register their opposition. The charity is campaigning for stronger legislation to prevent the loss of ancient woodland, and is concerned that this project getting the go-ahead could set a precedent at a time when 723 woods are under threat - the most in its 45 year history.
Chris Packham commented: "While a bypass around Arundel may or may not be needed, it’s totally unacceptable for Highways England, a government company, to propose three highly destructive road building options as the solution. Up to 24 ha of ancient woodland could be lost – that’s a choice no one should be expected to make."
"The only sensible option is to reject all three proposals, and send the clear message that any loss to ancient woodland is to lose a precious resource for species like the rare Bechstein’s bat, lesser spotted woodpeckers and hazel dormice. And for what – just a stretch of road that may only provide temporary relief to ever increasing traffic?"
The three routes would devastate either 5.5 hectares, 6 hectares or 24 hectares of ancient woodland in the Binsted Wood and Rewell Wood complexes around Arundel.
The impact would be keenly felt by locals, but the reverberations would be felt nationally. This is not only because the UK would lose some of its best woods and wildlife, but also because of the precedent it sets.
Woodland Trust campaigner Oliver Newham said: "This scheme is especially troubling because it’s a government-backed scheme. If they think it’s okay to destroy ancient woodland, everyone else will think so too".
"Road building doesn’t have to be at the detriment of the natural environment; we have seen some evidence of forward thinking such as the Hindhead tunnel in Surrey, this is the standard to which other schemes should aspire."
Newham added: "This isn’t a choice. All three options will see the largescale destruction of woods which now cover only a tiny proportion of the UK and yet are internationally renowned and home to more species of conservation concern than any other land-based habitat. These woods brim with life. Glow worms light up these floors at dusk in summer, nightjars return each year and increasingly threatened dormice – extinct in many counties – maintain a hold here."
"There’s an untruth being peddled that new trees can be planted elsewhere to make up for losing these woods. They can’t. Ancient woods, even those currently being restored, are unique and irreplaceable. Once these woods are gone they’re gone, along with all the wildlife they support."