HS2 and solicitors set for legal confrontation over Barbastelle bats at Jones Hill Woods
Leigh Day lawyers have written a second letter to HS2 Limited to call for a halt to works at Jones Hill Wood, Buckinghamshire since the discovery of Barbastelle bats at the location.
HS2, protestors and solicitors appear to be heading for a confrontation at Jones Hill Wood over a rare type of bat, the Barbastelle.
Barbastelle bats are said to be 'incredibly rare' by the woodland trust.
They are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and are also listed as Near Threatened globally on the IUCN Red List.
There are thought to be as few as 5,000 in the UK, but as they are so rare it is difficult to say whether they are increasing or decreasing in numbers.
Potential threats include loss of woodland habitat and pesticide use leading to a reduction in their prey.
Tom Short, from Leigh Day solicitors says that if sightings proved to be true, then HS2 'did not have the necessary licenses to proceed' in the area.
HS2 however have hit back at these claims, saying that HS2 has not confirmed any bat roosts (breeding, resting or sheltering places) present within the trees in Jones Hill Wood within HS2 land and added that 'illegal trespassers have interfered with our surveys' and 'threatened and abused staff over the last six months or so'.
They say that now that trespassers have been evicted, they will carry out further bat surveys.
Leigh Day solicitor Tom Short said:
“The company is likely to be committing a criminal offence if it continues works at that location, particularly by felling trees, under Section 43 of the of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.
"Our client is anxious to see a stop to any further disturbance of the barbastelle bats at Jones Hill Wood and calls on HS2 Ltd to comply with the law.”
HS2 maintain that they will meet all legal and ecological obligations seriously.
An HS2 spokesperson said:
“HS2 takes its legal obligations seriously, and all our ecology work is carried out in accordance with the law. It is designed to minimise disturbance to wildlife, including bats, in accordance with the HS2 Phase One Code of Construction Practice and all relevant wildlife legislation.
If bat roosts are identified, licenses from Natural England will be sought to ensure that we have the right safeguarding in place.
"Professionally qualified environmental staff are on site during operations and all works are overlooked by an Ecological Clerk of Works.”