Anger over 'brutal' HS2 axeing of woodland

HS2’s imminent destruction of ancient woodland has been described as ‘brutal’ and ‘a kick in the teeth’ for Buckinghamshire people.

Councillor Peter Martin, Buckinghamshire Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for HS2, has expressed his extreme disappointment at the decision by the Planning Inspector to allow an appeal by HS2 Limited, which was seeking consent for development next to Sheephouse Wood in Charndon, Bucks.

He said: ‘We believe HS2 Limited is unnecessarily damaging Sheephouse Wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Ancient Woodland.

‘The Planning Inspector’s decision is desperately disappointing and yet another kick in the teeth for local people and the environment severely impacted by the construction of the rail line.’

Back in March 2023, the council became aware of HS2 cutting back trees in the wood and asked it why this was happening. HS2 stated that the works were needed for safety/technical reasons, to protect both the Bat Mitigation Structure it had decided to construct, and the railway line when it became operational.

The council served a Tree Preservation Order to protect trees at risk from being cut down. This ensured the trees were not touched for up to six months, giving the council more time to discuss with HS2 why it believed such ‘brutal’ action was needed, find alternative options and to mitigate the impact of the works. HS2 continued to say that the removal of the trees was necessary.

Despite the council asking for more detailed information from HS2 Ltd about the proposed work to the trees, flood risk associated with the construction of the Sheephouse Wood ‘Bat Mitigation Structure’ and a footpath underpass, HS2 Ltd chose to appeal against the council’s ‘non determination’ of the application.

The council submitted a robust case to the Planning Inspector asking HS2 Limited to amend its application in the interests of avoiding harm to Sheephouse Wood.

Key aims of the council’s case included:

* Limiting the tree loss within Sheephouse Wood;
* Limiting the potential for flooding;
* Ensuring the Bat Mitigation Structure design met high quality design standards;
* Ensuring the earthworks and fencing were sensitive to the area.

The Planning Inspector upheld HS2 Limited’s appeal, so consent has been granted and development will now go ahead.

In granting consent, the inspector has deemed that tree management, including felling, is necessary and can start.

This removes the protection afforded by the preservation order. HS2 Ltd must, however, ensure that any works to trees is undertaken with great care and avoids harm to nesting birds.

The council will check activity to ensure proper methods and safeguards are followed.

It still considers that the work being done at Sheephouse Wood is avoidable harm and says it is pleased that the Inspector has applied a condition to the planning consent that ensures further scrutiny by the council and improved landscape design of the watercourse that runs through the site.