Tree protectors demand HS2 is scrapped and money diverted to NHS, as latest eviction begins

Tree protectors demand HS2 is scrapped and money diverted to NHS, as latest eviction begins

For immediate release

The eviction of Poor’s Piece Wood on the edge of Steeple Claydon in Buckinghamshire MK18 2HH has begun today. Members of the National Eviction Team (NET) employed by HS2 to forcefully remove tree protectors arrived on site early this morning. Tree protectors are locked-on in treehouses and towers in the three acre ancient woodland in an act of non-violent direct action, and are determined to protect the wood for future generations.

The tree protectors are calling for HS2 to be scrapped and the money diverted to the NHS to help tackle the pandemic and reward hard working staff. The director of HS2 earns around £600,000 per annum while NHS key workers work under incredible pressure for low incomes, and hundreds have died after contracting covid. Meanwhile, NET bailiffs and HS2 security and construction workers continue to work, in many cases without wearing masks or observing social distancing rules.

Construction workers have one of the highest incidences of covid infection and mortality rates and are themselves calling for union protection for their right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions.

Lupo, a resident of the Steeple Claydon camp, and former inhabitant of the nearby camp at Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve which was evicted on 22September last year, said, ‘More than £100 billion is being spent on HS2 whilst frontline health workers are using food banks and risking their lives to save us. A ridiculous amount of money when more jobs have been lost due to lockdown than HS2 will ever provide’.

Local resident, campaigner and camp supporter Lindsey Batham, who has herself been involved in successful direct action against HS2, said, ‘Seeing swarms of orange clad workers invade our area and treat us with such disrespect during the covid pandemic is something that will haunt me long after most of them have gone, leaving behind an Infrastructure Maintenance Depot for a railway that no one wants. We have lost so many ancient trees, hedgerows and beautiful wildlife for nothing’.

Poor’s Piece Wood is a wildlife haven which provides a home to eight protected red list bird species. A recent survey shows at least five species of bat present along with Red, Fallow and Muntjac deer. It was managed as a semi natural woodland from the middle of the 1500’s and provided fuel for inhabitants of the then hamlet of Steeple Claydon. The farm stands within Rosehill Farm, which is under temporary possession without compensation. Landowner Clive Higgins is forbidden to set foot on his own property.

It is the eighth protection camp to be evicted by HS2 in just over a year and the fifth in an ancient woodland. HS2 will directly affect 108 ancient woodlands, 33 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and 693 nature reserves.

Photos of the camp are available and media wishing to visit the site during the eviction are invited to call Caroline Thomson-Smith on 07762 415768 for directions. The postcode is MK18 2HH.

Background

Since the end of September last year in this small corner of rural Buckinghamshire, Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve and the ancient woodland Decoypond Wood have been severely impacted with the total destruction of 24 per cent of the reserve and 12.5 per cent of the wood.

In April 2020, Poor’s Piece Conservation Project was established by activists with the support of the landowner and local campaigners as a first line defence to prevent felling of 25 per cent of the wood. HS2 claim that this work will facilitate the development of the Infrastructure Maintenance Depot (IMD) at Steeple Claydon and Calvert on Phase 1 of the HS2 route. But despite there being no clear aim in mind from HS2 for the IMD, the surrounding area has already been decimated with hundreds of ancient trees already felled and miles of ancient hedgerow stripped from the earth.

On 10 March 2020 the NET moved onto Rosehill Farm within which Poor’s Piece Wood stands, to enforce a High Court writ for the temporary possession of 4.4 acres. The reason for the temporary acquisition was vaguely described by HS2 primary contractor Effiage Keir Ferrovial Bam (EKFB) as “for drainage”. The landowner’s land is under temporary possession with no compensation. He is now forbidden to set foot on his own property. An access agreement formally agreed with HS2 was regened on by a NET bailiff. Theoretically, HS2 is required to reinstate the land when handing back but since HS2 activity will involve destructio­­n of oak trees which have stood for hundreds of years, it is difficult to conceive how this will be accomplished. Furthermore, there is no timeframe defined for handing back: HS2 may keep the land ‘for the duration of the project plus one year’.

Contact numbers for more information and interviews

Caroline Thomson-Smith: 07762 415 768
Clive Higgins: 01296 730696
Lindsey Batham: 07527 125858
Lupo: 07768 895931

Further reading

Gallery

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