Yesterday (Wednesday 17th March), HS2 began felling an iconic row of great oaks that have stood as part of the landscape for over 100 years. This is so HS2 can build a temporary haul road. This has increased local outrage and protest against the scheme.
The row of 15 oaks, just hundreds of metres from local residents’ homes, was planted as part of the legacy and heritage of the Liberty family, and are as iconic as the red kites of the Chilterns.
As part of ongoing temporary works for the development of HS2 Phase 1A, HS2 has been carrying out extensive ground work. This has seen vast areas in and around Wendover, and Great Missendon cleared of hedgerows and a number of substantial trees. This work has now reached Leather Lane.
Activists and members of the local community had occupied trees along Leather Lane. But, HS2 finally took full control and possession of the land last Wednesday, evicting several activists from the site in the process.
On Monday (15th March) there was a planned road closure and the beginning of preparation work for felling. The road closure and arrival of chainsaws also brought together a spontaneous gathering of around 60 people from the local area who came to show opposition and protest the destruction of the oaks for a temporary haul road.
This road could be relocated if HS2 actually followed their own commitments of “minimising the impact on existing vegetation” and took one of the alternative options suggested.
Jim Ashton, resident of the property, has spoken out on Twitter after suffering intimidation from HS2 staff that has resulted in police attendance. He has also shared a video, alongside other incidents, documenting evidence of wildlife crime, including HS2 staff and an ecologist admitting to removing bird boxes containing nesting materials. @JimAshton_
Yesterday (17th), the RSPB added their voice to the call to stop the felling after the first three major oaks were felled, and evidence of wildlife crime was provided to them. They tweeted:
“Another atrocious act that shows HS2Ltd are taking completely the wrong approach” – @BBOWT on the felling of oaks at Leather Lane in Bucks. Did you do the surveys @HS2Ltd before sending in the chainsaws?”
Campaigners on the ground have also reported these as wildlife crimes and offered evidence.
However, despite police attendance at the scene, there has been a refusal to interact or investigate these crimes by Thames Valley Police.
Not by coincidence, Thames Valley Police is one of 16 Police Forces who have signed up to a special “Enhanced Police Services Agreement” with HS2.
The campaign group and local residents are mounting legal challenges as we speak but expect felling of the oaks may continue through Thursday despite best efforts.
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