HS2 will ‘destroy and divide’ huge swathes of ‘irreplaceable’ natural habitats, according to Wildlife Trusts.

A new report published by the organisation also states that the high-speed rail project will risk the loss of or significantly impact 108 ancient woodlands.

It claims that the new study, created using data from 14 Wildlife Trusts, is the most comprehensive assessment of the environmental damage that HS2 could cause.

Phase 2b of the estimated £88 billion rail project, which runs from Crewe to Manchester, would pass between Winsford and Middlewich, up to Pickmere and curve around the A556 to the east of Northwich.

A 4km long train depot is also proposed at Wimboldsley.

At a national level, according to Wildlife Trusts, the current plans will risk the loss of or significantly impact:

• Five wildlife refuges of international importance

• 33 Sites of Special Scientific Interest

• 693 Classified Local Wildlife Sites

• 21 Designated Local Nature Reserves

• 26 Large landscape-scale initiatives, including four nature improvement areas awarded £1.7 million of public money

• 18 Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves

• 108 "irreplaceable" ancient woodlands

The trust says ‘rarities’ such as the dingy skipper butterfly could also be made extinct locally, while barn owls and endangered wildlife such as white-clawed crayfish could be impacted.

Nikki Williams, The Wildlife Trusts’ director of campaigns and policy, said: "The figures are grim and the reality is worse.

"HS2 will destroy precious carbon-capturing habitats if it's allowed to continue in its current form.

“It will damage the very ecosystems that provide a natural solution to the climate emergency."

The Wildlife Trusts also said that if the project was to go ahead, a ‘new’ and ‘greener’ approach was needed.

Hilary McGrady, director general of National Trust, added: "As Europe's largest project of its kind, HS2 Ltd has a vital responsibility to lead by example and get this right by delivering a net gain for nature.

"We recognise that designing the railway is a long process but plans for HS2 must not end up cutting corners at the expense of the environment."

In response to the report, a HS2 spokesman said: "The number of sites presented in this report as being 'at risk of loss, or significant impact' simply isn't accurate.

"HS2 take the environmental cost of construction very seriously.

"That is why we're delivering an unprecedented programme of tree planting and habitat creation alongside the new railway - with seven million new trees and shrubs set to be planted between London and Birmingham alone - new native woodland planted to link up ancient woodland, and tailored mitigation plans in place for protected species."