Council slams HS2 for cutting down trees in ancient protected Aylesbury Vale woodland

“They have not satisfactorily answered our questions or engaged in any depth about their plans”
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Bucks Council has slammed HS2 works in Aylesbury Vale woodland which is threatening ‘irreplaceable ancient trees’.

Today (30 March) the local authority has served a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) to HS2 regarding works at Sheephouse Wood, near Calvert.

Discussions have been ongoing between the rail project group and the council regarding works affecting 141 acre biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

A Bechstein's Bat at Finem Woods near Calvert. Picture by Toby Thorne of the North Bucks Bat GroupA Bechstein's Bat at Finem Woods near Calvert. Picture by Toby Thorne of the North Bucks Bat Group
A Bechstein's Bat at Finem Woods near Calvert. Picture by Toby Thorne of the North Bucks Bat Group

Due to concerns regarding the felling of trees in the region, HS2 paused work in the area two weeks ago and officials representing the Government scheme attended Bucks Council’s latest transport and climate change meeting earlier today.

At the wildlife site HS2 is constructing a £40 million bat tunnel to protect the rare Bechstein species which inhabit the area.

However Bucks, Berks and Oxon Wildlife Trust fears the expensive protection will come too late to protect the rare winged creatures.

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Bucks Council has described the woodland as a protected, cherished site of local, national and international importance for nature conservation.

It is concerned about recent reports stating HS2 has cut down trees in the area for safety reasons, in the process of building the rail link and bat tunnel.

HS2 claims it has permission to chop down some trees on site from Natural England.

The council acknowledges HS2’s desire to achieve no net loss to biodiversity for the project. And it concedes that HS2 does not have a remit to protect ancient woodland. But it is issuing the order to give protect the woodland for at least six months and allow time for discussions over the matter.

Councillor Peter Martin said: “Part of the agreement we have with HS2 Limited is for ‘effective collaboration’. Despite this understanding, when we asked HS2 for more information and detail about what they are doing at Sheephouse Wood, they have not satisfactorily answered our questions or engaged in any depth about their plans. We need to know more about their rationale for cutting down irreplaceable ancient trees and as they are unwilling to provide any more detail we have no choice but to serve a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) on HS2 to protect this ancient woodland.

“The TPO has been served on HS2 Limited today (Thursday 30 March). It will ensure the trees cannot be touched for up to six months and will give us more time to discuss with HS2 why they believe such brutal action is warranted, identify alternative options and to mitigate the impact of their works. Preventing the loss of even just one tree in an ancient woodland is worth fighting for.”

A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd said: "All leading environmental organisations agree that climate change is the biggest future threat to wildlife and habitats in the UK.

"By providing zero carbon journeys from day one, HS2 will help cut the number of cars and lorries on our roads, cut demand for domestic flights, and help the country’s push to reduce carbon emissions.

“At Sheephouse Wood, we have assent from Natural England to make some limited changes to the western edge of the wood. This includes pruning and the removal of a small number of trees that are at risk of falling within the railway area – and the planting of a wider range of smaller trees and shrubs to improve biodiversity. At the council’s request, we paused work two weeks ago to address their concerns and will continue to engage with them to explain why this work is necessary.”

In 2019, the Woodlands Trust outlined concerns regarding the amount of nature that would be impacted by the rail project.

Lucy Ryan from The Woodland Trust said in 2019: " Ancient woodland loss cannot be mitigated because it is an irreplaceable habitat – once it is lost it is gone for good, and it doesn’t matter how many trees are planted it will never replace what is lost.”

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