Bats could be ‘showstopper’ for HS2 plans

A Bechstein's Bat at Finem Woods near Calvert - provided by Wendy Tobitt at BBWOT. ''Credit Toby Thorne of the North ucks Bat Group
A Bechstein's Bat at Finem Woods near Calvert - provided by Wendy Tobitt at BBWOT. ''Credit Toby Thorne of the North ucks Bat Group

RARE bats could stop the HS2 line in its tracks, according to government advisors from Natural England.

Under freedom of information requests the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust has obtained copies of emails between Natural England and HS2 Ltd – over a colony of Bechstein’s bats in Bernwood Forest in Buckinghamshire.

The documents reveal that on June 7 Natural England warned HS2 Ltd: “There is potential for Bechstein’s to be a showstopper.

“But it could be that it won’t be a problem or that it might require redesign of the scheme.

“We simply don’t know with the survey information which is currently available.

“Therefore we urge HS2 to undertake surveys as soon as possible in order to understand the likelihood of impacts.”

The warning appears not to have been passed to the secretary of state.

On 30 August Philip Hammond replied to a question on the issue of the bats from Aylesbury MP David Lidington, saying: “No assessments have yet been undertaken on the effects of the HS2 proposal on Bechstein’s bats in the Bernwood Forest, as this issue is very much at a local level.”

Matt Jackson, from the wildlife trust, said: “The trust took legal advice about the bat colony and sent it to the department of transport through the formal HS2 consultation process in July.

“Bechstein’s bats are a European protected species. They have the highest possible level of statutory wildlife protection in the UK.”