Press release from a collection of independent ecologists, legal professionals and on the ground environmental protectors.
An independent team of ecologists recently released a report evidencing a Barbastelle bat roost at Jones’ Hill Wood, Buckinghamshire, one of 20 ancient woodlands targeted for clearance by HS2 from October 1st. The Barbastelle is a very special bat; it is on the widely respected International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List and has a very high level of legal protection in the UK.
Rob Mileto, a specialist in protected species with 30 years’ experience in ecological consultancy, said: “The team were eager to share their findings with HS2 and wrote to them last Friday to prevent unnecessary harm. This was followed up with an official report, which was also distributed widely through Natural England.
“Natural England had already confirmed that day that HS2 Ltd had no licence in place to legally disturb Barbastelle bats or to damage or destroy their roosts. Indeed, Natural England have now also confirmed that HS2 Ltd do not have a valid licence relating to any bat species at Jones’ Hill Wood, because they have not fulfilled the required registration of any licensed works there”.
Certainly, any action that disturbs bats at rest, or damages or destroys a bat roost at Jones’ Hill Wood is unlawful unless the correct licences have been applied to this ancient and very special site. Despite this, HS2 have continued with the eviction of environmental protectors from the site.
Ecologist Kevin Hand MSC, MCIEEM, Course Director for educational charity the ACE Foundation, said: “I was delighted when my colleagues and I found the Barbastelle roost, but also apprehensive and well aware that tree felling and other disturbance would be very damaging to the bats. Since then HS2 have surrounded the trees with fences and there is 24 hour activity by security guards around them. They have positioned a powerful spotlight shining directly into the trees. Felling could start any day now”
An ecologist informed HS2 security why they cannot shine a floodlight into an identified Barbastelle roost but were informed “HS2 says it has to stay”.
A witness has provided an official statement that they observed bats disturbed from their roosts by HS2 machinery including a cherry picker, and flying in the afternoon, hours before dusk.
Mark Keir, a Green Party Candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip 2019 said “I am an environmentalist that has been living in these woods for months. In the centre of the woods is a dead standing tree, one of the most important parts of a woodland ecology. I can personally verify that in that tree was an active bat roost, right until HS2 arrived. The bats have been disturbed and have left their roosts. They have been made homeless. This is illegal”
Lawyers for Nature supported legal firm Leigh Day in writing and sending an official legal letter, on behalf of their client, to HS2 on Wednesday, stating that HS2 should “immediately halt works pending further investigation.” However, The National Eviction Team, contracted by HS2, increased their numbers the next day reinforced by 30 – 40 police officers in riot gear.
Clare Walters, Woodland Ecologist told us: “The environmental protectors have been saying that there are Barbastelles here for a long time, as you can see in their video ‘Habitat not HS2’”
“They found seven species of bat present in the wood, including rare and protected roosts, at least three families of badgers, hazel dormice, one active fox den, 43 species of moth and countless species of insects and pollinators essential to the survival of an already dwindling countryside. Unfortunately, their findings have not been listened to until now. All ancient natural woodland should be seen as a national treasure and should be preserved.”
When asked to describe HS2’s impact on the ancient woodland, she replied:
“Devastation, it’s like the Somme. They have destroyed the ancient woodland flora, the soil structure, the microbiome, and the drainage. Any hazel dormice going into hibernation will have been disturbed. It is not acceptable practice to use heavy machinery in wet conditions like this. There is clear government guidance on how to undertake work in an ancient woodland and every measure should be taken to avoid and reduce impact.”
Eileen Robley, professional ecological consultant added: “It may well also be the case that any felling in the locality of the known barbastelle roost tree could be considered an offence, since the resting place / roost would be indirectly destroyed by the dramatic change of habitat, making it unsuitable for continued use by this species. In addition, barbastelle have been found to use several roosts in the same woodland over very short timescales, so it is likely that Jones’ Hill Wood holds several barbastelle roosts.”
We have attempted to liaise with HS2 to prevent a crime, but until this point, no response from HS2 has been received to the legal letter. If they do not desist, we will have no choice but to proceed with further legal measures.
Today, it is understood that HS2 deployed a tree grabber to Jones’ Hill Wood, which was blocked by environmental protectors. The Police have promised to go to the scene and investigate.
For more information or to arrange an interview contact: HS2Rebellion@gmail.com
The report is freely available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1S_T_5YS_uVlVQhozYtJXjbROuCUEAk1n/view?usp=sharing
Habitat not HS2 available at https://www.facebook.com/ross.monaghan.35/videos/10160038437134992/
Leigh Day Press Office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos of Jones Hill Woods by Talia Woodin @Taltalkingpics