The Woodland Trust accuse East-West rail of withholding key route information from public

Toft Wood, near Cambridgeshire which is under threat from the project
Toft Wood, near Cambridgeshire which is under threat from the project

The Woodland Trust have hit out at the East-West Rail (EWR) project, after claims the company have tried to keep key route information out of the public domain.

The multimillion pound project is set to link Oxford with Cambridge, passsing through Aylesbury.

The Woodland Trust say they have asked for detailed information on the five proposed options for the 'middle section' of the new railway.

These routes will affect ancient woodlands in the area.

But the Woodland Trust say that EWR have chosen to withhold the plans unless the Trust signs a 'non-disclosure agreement' promising not to share the details with its legions of supporters.

Director of Conservation and External Affairs Abi Bunker said:

“Actively withholding information from a public consultation that they know may sway opinion is flawed and inappropriate. We have never been gagged when it comes to standing up for ancient woodland and we are not about to start now.

“EWR’s decision makes a mockery of the planning process. People cannot understand the impacts and make an informed decision if they do not have all the facts.

“With centuries-old woods and trees potentially in serious danger, it is simply unacceptable to hold back important information from a public consultation.”

The current consultation which closes on Monday, 11 March, concerns five route options for the central section of the project, which stretches between Bedford and Cambridge. The project falls under the wider umbrella of the Oxford to Cambridge growth arc.

12 areas of ancient woodland, at least six ancient and veteran trees and five Woodland Trust sites are under threat from the central section of the project.

Ms Bunker added:

“We’re asking our supporters to join us in placing a holding objection regarding the potential impacts of the five route options before the consultation closes next week. East West Rail needs to understand that damage and loss to irreplaceable ancient habitats is as inappropriate as the withholding of detail.

“The Woodland Trust is certainly not opposed to the scheme in principle. Green transport initiatives should be encouraged. We need East West Rail to ensure they are working in harmony with the natural environment rather than against it.”

A Statement from East-West Rail said: "The East West Railway Company is committed to protecting the natural environment as we develop this scheme, which will bring considerable benefits to the local area.

“Far from holding back information, we are actually engaging with the public at a much earlier stage than almost any other infrastructure project before. We are delighted that thousands of local residents are participating in the consultation.

“As our plans mature in the months and years ahead, there will be further public consultation based upon the best information we can provide at that time.

“We hope the Woodland Trust will work with us as we develop these plans, so we can take their views into account and engage effectively with the public.”

To have your say on the consultation visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/campaigns