Concern for wildlife grows as de-vegetation work for HS2 begins in Steeple Claydon

Last Saturday, Anti-HS2 campaigners in Steeple Claydon had cause to cordon off a hedgerow that had been cut down after finding what they believed to be a recently made bird's nest.

On Thursday 11 April, HS2 contractors Fusion, started removing hedgerows from a 300 acre site of countryside during bird nesting season, much to the outrage of local residents and animal welfare campaigners and environmentalists more generally.

Area where bird's nest was found by anti-HS2 campaigners

Area where bird's nest was found by anti-HS2 campaigners

The campaign group Anti-HS2 – SOC (Save Our Countryside) were monitoring activity at the weekend when they came across the bird's nest.

On Monday this week we were contacted and various attempts were made to seek expert opinion on whether the nest was indeed from this season.

Though the RSPB told us that they can never be 100% sure from photographs, a spokesperson provided the following statement:

“From the images sent to the RSPB, the probability is that it is an old nest given that it’s built into a bush with no visible foliage on it yet and was probably built last summer when the hedgerow was in full leaf. The RSPB understands that it’s upsetting for people in the local area to see works being carried out by HS2 and we have already recommended to HS2 Ltd it should delay any tree or vegetation clearance to the late summer but it seems very unlikely that they are going to do so. What we can all do is to try to persuade HS2 Ltd to minimise the impact by sensitive working on the site and ideally delay non-essential vegetation clearance until after the breeding season this year.”

Hedgerow clearance vehicle

Hedgerow clearance vehicle

Some relevant context to this is that the photos were taken after the hedge had been cut down – presumably removing it from possible surrounding foliage.

We also went on site to take a look for ourselves. Unfortunately the downed hedge and the nest had been removed by site workers, meaning we would be unable to obtain definitive expert opinion on the status of the nest.

While in the vicinity we were approached by wildlife crime officer Dean Kingham. He told us that he had received a tip-off about the nest and had also seen a photograph that he thought showed an old nest, although when pressed he acknowledged that he is not an expert.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built. Ecologists need to demonstrate that they have checked vegetation and that it is clear of nesting activity before they can give a permit to clear.

Bird nest discovered at de-vegetation site

Bird nest discovered at de-vegetation site

Councillor Charlie Clare said:

“If HS2’s lawyers are able to keep HS2 within the letter of the law, there is no doubt that they are still breaking the spirit of it.”

Considering that HS2's Notice to Proceed has been delayed until December 2019 because updated costs and a revised business case have yet to be submitted, there is growing concern that the North Buckinghamshire countryside may be being destroyed for no reason.