AN AREA of ancient woodland in Rotherham will one of four destroyed or damaged if HS2 goes ahead with its proposed high speed rail route through South Yorkshire, it has been claimed.
Conservation charity the Woodland Trust said Nicker Wood near Aston would be lost if the controversial route goes ahead.
Stables Wood in Barnburgh, Watchely Crag Wood in Hooton Pagnell and Howell Wood in Grimethorpe could be damaged by noise, dust and lighting because they will be close to the line, the trust said.
The woodland experts said the northern section of the HS2 route would impact on a minimum of 24 irreplaceable ancient woods.
Phase 1 of the controversial high speed line from London to Birmingham was granted Royal Assent in February and will affect 63 ancient woods.
On Phase 2 to Leeds and Manchester, the Woodland Trust said that 11 woods are threatened with direct loss and 13 are close enough to be threatened.
Beccy Speight, the trust’s chief executive, said: “Any loss or damage to ancient woodland is a catastrophe for the natural environment, particularly when you consider how little we have left.
“With the trail of destruction HS2 Ltd will cause to ancient woodland, it will never be able to call this project green.
“HS2 Ltd will say it is planting millions of trees along the route. That’s all well and good, but no amount of new trees can ever recreate ancient woodland.”
Ancient woodland is a term used for woods that have centuries of continuity on largely undisturbed natural soils.
Ms Speight said the trust will fight the threats to the ancient woodlands and claimed some success in protecting sites in the south.
Ms Speight said: “These wins should now set a precedent for how the second phase of the project is handled,” she said.
A spokesman for HS2 said it was more environmentally responsible than any major infrastructure project in UK history and the route would avoid ancient woodlands wherever possible.
He also pledged the firm would work with the Woodland Trust.