Call me an old cynic.... but I am suspicious about this new plan to create a 'Northern Forest' that the Government announced last week.
This, by the way, is the same Government that is forging on with HS2, the publicly despised high speed rail project, which will decimate nearly 100 ancient woodlands across large swathes of England as it ploughs through everything in its path. What springs to mind is not necessarily a bold plan to create a new forest but a giant dose of hypocrisy.... the Government has sanctioned the mass felling of thousands of acres of ancient woodland with one hand while announcing plans for a new 'forest' of trees with the other. And that's if the 'Northern Forest' plan ever comes to fruition.
While a tiny £5m has been allocated by the Government to this noble sounding plan, a whopping £104 billion is the cost forecast to build HS2. Which kind of makes the Northern Forest sound like something falling short of even a token gesture. The cost of the Northern Forest is projected to be £500m over the next 25 years but charity donations will be needed for the £495m that the Government are not funding.
Not only that but the cities that the Northern Forest will link together are not exactly renowned for their nurturing approach to trees. Liverpool felled 36 old Maples last year and replaced them with a horrible multi storey car park that harks back to the worst architecture of the 1960's, while Sheffield has gained a reputation for frenzied and uncontrolled tree felling that has made the city notorious worldwide for its callous approach to conservation. So, although it is the Conservatives who are pushing HS2, both of the aforementioned cities have Labour run councils illustrating that this muddled ignorance towards trees is a cross party problem.
Cynic that I am, I can only think that this cunningly timed announcement for a Northern Forest is a naïve attempt to pacify the HS2 protestors and divert attention from the destruction that HS2 is causing to our countryside. But if the Government think that their 'dream' to plant a forest somewhere 'up North' will silence its critics then they are mistaken. Why? Because people are not stupid. The decimation of our ancient woodland is a national scandal, and the precious habitat it provides for our wildlife cannot be replaced with a ribbon of newly planted trees which will take centuries to reach the kind of maturity needed to support the diverse ecosystem that is being obliterated in the wake of HS2.
Of the Northern Forest plan, Environment Secretary Michael Gove is quoted as saying: "Trees are some of our most cherished natural assets and living evidence of our investment for future generations. Not only are they a source of beauty and wonder, but a way to manage flood risk, protect precious species and create healthier places for us to work and live.”
What a pity he doesn't view the mass destruction of woodland by HS2 with the same concern. Perhaps he's so shallow that he hasn't made the connection....
A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation. – Adlai E. Stevenson II