HS2 has revealed plans to create a ‘green corridor’ of new wildlife habitats, woodlands and community spaces – but the idea has been slammed by campaigners as “utter greenwash nonsense”.

Along the phase one route from London to the West Midlands, HS2 says seven million new trees and shrubs, covering nine square kilometres, and more than 33 square kilometres of wildlife habit will be created, along with 226 ponds for great crested newts and other animals and bat houses.

HS2 has called it a “pioneering initiative” but environmental and anti-HS2 campaigners have criticised the plans for the damage it will cause to nearly 100 ancient woodlands, covering 40 hectares.

Luci Ryan, ecologist at The Woodland Trust, said: “This is utter greenwash nonsense from an organisation trying to pretend that HS2 isn’t the most environmentally destructive infrastructure project this country has seen in decades.

“Some 98 beautiful, rare, irreplaceable ancient woodlands will be destroyed or damaged by this scheme. That’s 98 habitats and eco-systems that support a whole host of mammals, birds, invertebrates, fungi and plants.

“And once that ancient woodland is gone, it’s gone forever so while planting new trees is all well and good, it’s no substitute for what will be lost.

“Their plans - which let’s not forget are a condition of the scheme, not being delivered out of the goodness of their hearts – fall woefully short of replacing what will be lost on something being touted as a green infrastructure project.

“None of this new planting will replace the 30ha of ancient woodland destroyed on Phase 1 and the £2million they are making available on Phase 2a as part of the woodland fund will not replace the 10.2ha of ancient woodland they are destroying there.

“This is like smashing a Ming vase and replacing it with bargain basement crockery.”

Meanwhile, Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, said: “Early on, we warned that sites for new woodland should be chosen carefully as part of a landscape scheme, rather than just using bits of field that happen to be available to HS2 Ltd because the railway is being built, yet that is exactly what is happening.

"There are real concerns about the sheer scale of environmental vandalism from HS2. There are numerous ancient woodlands that will be directly and indirectly affected by HS2, as well as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and HS2 will also have a devastating effect on bat populations along the route. But the greenwashing has already started.”

As the corridor is gradually delivered, HS2 is encouraging local people and organisations to get involved and has promised to support local environmental projects, through its various funds including the £45m Community & Environment Fund and Business & Local Economy Fund.

Nusrat Ghani, HS2 Minister, said: “Our unique and beautiful countryside is one of our nation’s greatest assets. As we deliver the new high speed railway our country needs, for economic growth and better journeys for passengers, it is imperative we set a new standard for preserving, protecting and enhancing our diverse woodlands and wildlife.

“HS2’s green corridor is one of the most significant tree-planting and habitat creation projects ever undertaken in this country. To support that vision, the government is providing an additional £2 million for the Woodland Fund, to support native species and help more people enjoy more new green spaces than before.”