Tuesday 27th April 2021
Issued by: Jones’ Hill Wood Campaigners
In a shocking U-turn of events, High Court Judge, Mr Justice Holgate refused permission for Mark Keir (representing the Jones Hill Wood Earth protectors) to apply for judicial review and lifted the injunction which had been placed to suspend the felling of Jones Hill Wood until a full legal case was heard.
Mr Keir has instructed his solicitors to appeal the judgment to the Court of Appeal.
“We aim to be in a position to do so before the end of the week. The focus of the grounds of appeal will be on the lawfulness of what Natural England admitted in the licence decision and in documents before the Court as the “extreme use” of Licencing Policy 4.”Lisa Foster, Richard Buxton Solicitors.
However, as matters stand with the injunction now lifted felling can re-commence imminently at Jones Hill Wood. Tragically, despite the wealth of evidence to support the need for wildlife protection at Jones Hill Wood the weight of importance instead falls on how much will be lost financially to HS2 if there are further delays and targets are not met. After a long campaign to save this wood, supported by The Woodland Trust, Wildlife Trusts, Chiltern Conservation
board, CPRE and thousands of locals, this ancient iconic site, home to the Fantastic Mr.Fox and many rare species, has been given the go ahead to be destroyed.
“This is a dismal decision, it allows HS2 to carry on with no care to our environment and show little regard to compensation. Jones Hill is lost, lost to hideous miserly mitigation. We must stop this happening elsewhere.”– Mark Keir ( Earth Protector)
LP4 Licences are normally used in limited circumstances like a domestic roof extension and not for major infrastructure projects. They enable Natural England to relax certain wildlife survey standards and make decisions on a licence application. However, LP4 was not intended for frequent use nor in circumstances where there are rare protected species present. In the claimant/s expert evidence before the Court, Mr. Dominic Woodfield, Bioscan stated:
“As is explicit in NE’s own internal guidance …Licencing Policy 4 is not intended for frequent use and “ is the exception rather than rule…I am not aware of LP4 being used in a comparative situation to that at Jones Hill Wood – i.e. a situation where such a broad suite of roosts specifically including maternity roosts of a rare species [the barbastelle bat] are assumed to be lost.”
The case raises a very important issue where sensitive ecological habitats are threatened by nationally important infrastructure like HS2. What happened in this case is not a “one off” licencing decision by Natural England and the judgement matters far beyond the ancient woodland trees at Jones Hill Woods. It creates a very dangerous precedent for HS2 and other developers…
Mr Keir feels that the judgment could set an alarming precedent for protected species by effectively rewarding HS2 for who failed to carry out surveys to industry standards, in a timely manner and inadequate detail to support the licencing decision.
What is concerning is how wildlife protection laws can be so easily overridden by lowering the bar in this way, especially when there are endangered species at risk. Further questions are now raised about the future of our hedgerows, corridors and habitats which our wildlife so desperately need.
Todays’ decision has sent shockwaves through the environmental communities and supporting bodies. Only weeks ago The Woodland Trust released their State of the UK’s Woods and Trees 2021 report which revealed our ancient woodlands to be “at crisis point”.
The report states that “With each ancient woodland lost, we lose a part of our cultural heritage and the special wildlife that depends on it.” In no place could this be more true that at Roald Dahl’s Wood where rare bats like the barbastelle bat have been recorded.
Barbastelle bats are strongly associated with complex ancient woodlands, needing a variety of roost type and habitat features. There are no proven instances where the loss of barbastelle maternity roosts being compensated for by sticking up a few bat boxes. To grant a licence on this basis fails all the relevant regulatory tests.
The Woodland Trust, RSPB, CPRE and Chilterns Conservation Board have all spoken out in support of the legal challenge (please see in notes to editors). This comes as The Woodland Trust released a report stating that UK woods are at crisis point and under a barrage of threats. The report notes that ancient forests cover 2.5% of the UK but it was highlighted that 1,225 of these are under threat of destruction for development.
Natural England, who also contested permission in the case, have also been accused of regulatory failure after not suspending the licence after being presented with evidence that:
- One third of HS2’s bat boxes had been illegally placed after the landowner explicitly refused access, removed by the landowner, but inaccurately been declared as being placed with consent in the licence application.
- The remaining mitigation consisted of floodlit bat boxes – floodlighting a bat roost can kill bats through starvation and entombment.
- Members of the public had recorded trees with Potential Roosting Features being felled, seemingly without checks for several days, and put straight in the chipper.
- Barbastelle bats are known to change roosts frequently and members of the public once again accused HS2 of putting bats through the chipper.
Dr Elaine King, Chief Executive of the Chilterns Conservation Board stated: “The way this licence was obtained is morally wrong. In relying on the provisions in the HS2 Act, HS2 Ltd is failing to conduct the necessary ecological surveys in good time, and is limiting opportunities to scrutinise its plans and activities. As a result, licensing authorities have little choice but to issue licences and accept a ‘lower than standard survey effort’. This approach is not in line with HS2 Ltd’s
commitment to uphold the highest environmental standards and respect the sensitive and special nature of this protected landscape.”
In order to keep fighting for justice, we must raise more funds to keep this legal case going. Even if we lose Jones Hill Wood we can not let this keep happening. Please do share this crowdfunding link –https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/protect-jones-hill-wood-from-h/. The money we have raised so far is already accounted for and each legal step costs huge amounts. We are up against a multi-billion pound corporate giant but need to make our voices heard and stand up for the ancient sites we have left.
Photos clicked on 28.04.2021 – Accreditation © Maureen McLean
Notes to Editors:
(1) Court papers being delivered and refused https://we.tl/t-VON9FzfHWr
(2) Felling footage, including tree felling celebrations, floodlit bat boxes and interviews 09.04.2021
(3) Felling footage, includes Fantastic Mr Fox Tree falling 13.04.2021
The translocation of Jones’ Hill Wood by Dr Walters and Sidonie Williams:
Contacts for Interview:
Katy Roberts, PR Assistant,
07484 154 605, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Foster, Partner, Richard Buxton Solicitors,
07970 097 402, email@example.com
Kevin Hand, MSc Conservation, MCIEEM, Course Director of ACE Foundation, Vice President of
Cambridge Natural History Society, firstname.lastname@example.org
(number may be available upon request to press officer)
Clare Walters, Woodland Ecologist, PhD
07984 115 927, email@example.com
Mark Keir, Claimant and Earth Protector
07591 924 983, firstname.lastname@example.org
Historical significance of Jones Hill Wood
Jones Hill Wood epitomises and encapsulates the essence of an ancient woodland in the Chilterns. I have dated the southern wood boundary to at least 1200 years old using the ‘Hooper formular’. ‘Indicator plants’ for ancient woodland including bluebells and dog’s mercury are present. Recent, high resolution ‘Lidar’ images indicate archaeological features including linear features that could well be prehistoric. A well-preserved chalk quarry (referred to locally as a Dell) is almost certainly medieval in date. There is also at least one sawpit, early evidence of traditional woodland management. Over the centuries this ancient woodland would have been host to many traditional local trades including underwood management producing hurdles, besom brooms, bean sticks and faggots.
The trees would have been sustainably managed relying on ‘self-regeneration’. It is likely that the local ‘chair bodgers’ would, periodically, set-up camp to convert (on a pole lathe) a few selected beech trees into chair legs for the local chair industry.
Jones Hill Wood is a microcosm of our Chiltern heritage, a ‘time capsule’ of local history.Stuart King, 78, Traditional woodcraftsman and author.
Farmer Bunce, descendent of the villain in Fantastic Mr Fox:
“I used to walk down to Jones’ Hill Wood and see the ten or so deer that lived there lying in a field of bluebells with the sunlight through the canopy. It was really quite nice”
Kevin Hand MSc Conservation, MCIEEM, Course Director of ACE Foundation, Vice President of Cambridge Natural History Society, who confirmed Barbastelle presence:
“The supposed mitigation for these rare bats consists of fewer bat boxes than stipulated in the Natural England licence, most put up illegally in defiance of the wishes of the local landowner. This is typical of HS2’s cavalier attitude to nature and local people. They think they are above the law. If this is happening here, with the world watching, how much more are they getting away with on all the other countless hedges, woods and copses they are destroying, during the peak bird nesting season?”
CPRE Buckinghamshire – https://twitter.com/cprebucks/status/1382953292452524034
The Woodland Trust 1 – https://twitter.com/AdamCormack_/status/1383739031662465030
The Woodland Trust 2 – https://twitter.com/WoodlandTrust/status/1382348277451001859
RSPB – https://twitter.com/RSPBEngland/status/1382604615334699010
Non-Comprehensive History in the Press: