In recent weeks Buckinghamshire Council has become aware of HS2 cutting back trees in Sheephouse Wood and made enquiries to HS2 as to why this was happening.
HS2 have stated that the works are required for safety / technical reasons to protect the bat structure they have decided to construct and the railway line when it is operational and that they have been given permission to do this by Natural England.
Sheephouse Wood is a 141 acre (56.9 hectares) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) east of Charndon in Buckinghamshire. With its ancient oak trees, diverse ground flora, breeding birds and uncommon invertebrates, this ancient woodland is a cherished site of local, national and international importance for nature conservation. It is protected through the planning process.
HS2 Limited is building a bespoke 850m bat mitigation structure, based on a series of arches, alongside Sheephouse Wood SSSI in Buckinghamshire, to protect Bechstein’s bats from being struck by passing trains.
Although there is no legal requirement to do so, HS2 Phase One has the objective of seeking to achieve no net loss to biodiversity for the project and this was formalised through the HS2 Act 2017 and published in their Environmental Statement in January 2016. Also their Environmental Statement makes no account for the prospect that this ancient woodland and SSSI would be touched. It is irreplaceable and would represent harm to the landscape.
Councillor Peter Martin, Deputy Cabinet Member for HS2 at Buckinghamshire Council, 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 30th March 2023]. 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.‘
*Source of information : Press release from Buckinghamshire Council.