THE Woodland Trust says more than 26,000 people have backed its opposition to the planned HS2 route’s ‘destruction’ of at least 19 ancient woodlands.

The phase 2b route, which will pass through Cheshire, is currently out for consultation – with the Trust one of the bodies to have submitted feedback.

In Cheshire, Bull’s Wood, Winnington Wood, Leonard’s Wood, Smoker Wood and Brickhill Wood would be impacted by the route.

The Trust says the response to its opposition is the largest it has seen for one of its campaigns to protect woods under threat.

Abi Bunker, director of conservation and external affairs, said: “The tremendous reaction to our campaign shows the overwhelming opposition to the destruction of this rare and irreplaceable habitat

“We’ll submit all responses on our supporters’ behalf before HS2 Ltd’s public consultation closes this month with the stark message that it’s about time they sat up and listened to the groundswell of public opinion.

“They cannot continue to ride roughshod over our precious habitats like this. We stand to lose not just the woodland but the hundreds of species that call it home, and once it’s gone it’s gone forever as no amount of replanting can compensate for the loss.”

The Trust is pressing for realignment or tunnelling to be considered.