Thousands of young trees planted to compensate for ancient woodlands destroyed by the controversial HS2 rail project have been allowed to die.
HS2 Ltd said it deliberately neglected the saplings during the heatwave because it was not cost-effective to water them and more ‘ethical’ to use resources elsewhere.
As part of the taxpayer-funded, £56 billion HS2 project, some 50,000 young trees were planted in March in three large fields in the Colne Valley that runs between Buckinghamshire and the West London borough of Hillingdon.
Thousands of saplings were left to die here in Colne Valley. They were planted in the field to compensate for ancient woodland being destroyed to make way for a viaduct
HS2 claim only 30 per cent of the trees have since perished, but the Denham Against HS2 group claims as many as 36,000 have been lost.
Under the terms of its contract, HS2 must plant new trees ‘in mitigation’ of the loss of woodland. The company said the saplings – a mix of oak, hazel, dogwood, holly and other native species – cost around 50p each.
But campaigners say the cost of replacing the trees is likely to be much higher, taking labour and maintenance costs into account.
Frank Partridge, who runs Denham Against HS2, said: ‘They say the cost is 50p per sapling but that’s ridiculous because what about all the cost of labour, maintenance and everything else they must factor in?
‘It’s an outrage that they’ve let these young saplings die.’
Sarah Green, who works in a local nature reserve, posted a video on YouTube detailing the scenes of devastation. She said: ‘These are the trees planted for mitigation, but as you see they are dead, totally dead.
‘This is our money. This is taxpayers’ money. We haven’t actually found a live tree apart from in the middle of the fields where there is a boggy bit.
‘I find this absolutely disgusting. It is a complete travesty.’
HS2 Ltd said it deliberately neglected the saplings during the heatwave because it was not cost-effective to water them and more ‘ethical’ to use resources elsewhere
HS2 will see more than 350 miles of new track laid, linking London to Birmingham and Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.
The route will cut a swathe through the heart of Middle England across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire and the West Midlands.
An HS2 spokesman said: ‘As a result of the hottest summer on record in England, a number of saplings have died in West London.
‘Replacing these plants is more cost effective than transporting significant water quantities in the area, as well as a more ethical use of resources during unusually hot weather.’