Hypocrisy of UK Government exposed as ancient woodlands destroyed along the HS2 line

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

  • This week, Boris Johnson pledged to protect UK biodiversity and wildlife. Yet he continues to back HS2, the biggest deforestation project since the First World War.
  • Campaigners will mark October 1st, when HS2 officially ‘restarts’ destruction of  ancient woodland, as “National Tree Killing Day”, with socially distanced protests along the proposed route – in Lichfield, Leamington Spa and London
  • In reality, HS2’s environmental devastation has continued throughout the summer. This week HS2 began cutting through the ancient woodlands of Little Lyntus and Fulfen in Staffordshire and obliterated part of Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve in Buckinghamshire.

This week, Boris Johnson told world leaders, ‘We can’t afford to dither and delay because biodiversity loss is happening today and is happening at a frightening rate’ and promised to protect 30% of our land by 2030 – yet the hypocrisy of this statement and pledge is laid bare as the government’s HS2 project rips through irreplaceable woodland and habitats.  

A field of dead and cut down trees at Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve, where a woodland once was.
Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve – 28th September 2020 Credit: Caroline Thomson-Smith

From October 1st, HS2 Ltd is due to officially start the destruction and translocation of 20 ancient woodlands [1]. But this is not the start: HS2’s ecocide has been relentless since it began tearing down thousands of trees in the Colne Valley 18 months ago, and ripping up ancient woodland this April in Warwickshire. In the last fortnight alone, HS2 has almost entirely felled Little Lyntus and Fulfen ancient woodlands, near Lichfield in Staffordshire, despite objections and concerns raised by the Woodland Trust [2] and obliterated part of Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve in Buckinghamshire, as well as cutting down numerous other mature trees, hundreds of years old, in Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire [3].  In Denham Country Park – a significant wet woodland nature reserve – trees are currently being felled outside the allocated boundary of HS2’s injuncted land, and outside the area covered by Natural Engand’s bat mitigation licence, without a water vole license, and without an ecologist on site, clearly showing that wildlife crime has taken place and yet still the authorities fail to act. London hasn’t escaped the destruction – earlier this week, HS2 Ltd felled the ‘Cumberbatch’ tree – the last London plane tree left near Drummond street, Euston. 

A person with their head in their hands crouched on the stump of The Hunningham Oak, with the trunk behind them.
The Hunningham Oak, near Leamington, Warwickshire, an estimated 300 years old – had been nominated for the ‘Tree of The Year’ competition this year.  It was not on the route of the line, but was felled for a road realignment – completely avoidable.  24th September 2020. Credit Richard Clifford

On Thursday 1st October campaigners from Stop HS2, HS2 Rebellion and others will be marking ‘National Tree Killing Day’ with socially distanced activities in Lichfield, Leamington Spa and London.

In Leamington Spa, the launch of a four-day Stop HS2 event will start at 10:30am and include guest speakers high-profile human rights barrister Michael Mansfield QC and Dr Gail Bradbrook of Extinction Rebellion.  Events will take place in Leamington town centre on the 1st and 3rd of October and Kenilworth town centre on the 2nd and 4th of October. [5]

In Lichfield, campaigners will be gathering near Little Lyntus Wood from 10am to protest against HS2’s felling there and to raise public awareness of the damage being done to these irreplaceable habitats during the ongoing climate emergency.[6]

In London there will be a socially distanced walk – starting at 11am at Dixon Clarke Court in Islington, where trees are due to be felled on 6th October, via Euston and from there to Parliament. [7]

Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion said: “HS2 is a hyper expensive nature destroying aviation shuttle service being pushed forward at a time when travel is reducing and we need to fund a green transition. Boris Johnson stated earlier this week that “Extinction is forever – so action must be immediate”.  I couldn’t agree more – HS2 must be cancelled and our biodiversity preserved and protected – the government must act now.”   

Nikki Jones, Stop HS2 campaigner from Warwickshire said: “The UK Government cannot continue to say one thing and do another. Either you protect the environment and the natural world, or you don’t. Spewing out soundbites means nothing if it is not backed up by action.  HS2 was designed over a decade ago and, in spite of the Government declaring a climate and ecological emergency and signing up to the 2015 Paris Agreement in the meantime, not one iota of this project has changed. We need decisive action on climate change, and we need it now.” 

Matt Bishop, Stop HS2 campaigner said: “In the Covid era, HS2 is already out of date. Declared unachievable by the National Audit Office, we cannot afford it – financially or ecologically. We are in a time of crisis and our country now has more pressing needs. The Government should demonstrate its commitment to democracy by holding a referendum, a free vote in parliament, or a citizens’ assembly on the future of HS2. The opinion polls show that the people do not want HS2.”

Protest camps stand strong along the proposed route protecting our natural heritage and bearing witness to the environmental desecration – but face eviction each day.

HS2 construction and biodiversity destruction delays any plans for the UK to reach net zero by 2050. Claims that HS2 will contribute towards a new ‘greener’ future are simply not true. The carbon footprint of its construction is so huge that HS2 will not reach carbon net zero within its predicted lifetime of 120 years.  It is tearing through irreplaceable habitats evolved over hundreds of years, and oases of biodiversity in this wildlife-depleted country.  In the mid Colne Valley nature reserve alone, HS2 is set to destroy a thousand acres of rare wet woodland.

This week David Attenborough took to Instagram to warn ‘the world is in trouble’ and Prince Charles called for swift action on climate change last week. Many are finally waking up to the Climate and Ecological Emergency.  When will our government act? We are calling on them to scrap HS2 immediately, and instead use the estimated £200 billion [8] of taxpayers’ money being squandered on the project  to protect our environment and our futures. 

A stump in a wooded areas, with its cut down trunk next to it
Denham Country Park, September 2020, trees felled to make way for a temporary hall road. Credit @taltakingpics

Notes to editors:

More photos available here HIGH RESOLUTION PICTURE LIBRARY

For more information,interviews and to arrange visits to the camps contact 07969 083 371 

See HS2 Rebellion Facebook for updates https://www.facebook.com/HS2rebellion 

To join our journalist  WhatsApp groups contact 07969 083 371

[1]  https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/press-centre/2020/08/hs2-destroys-roald-dahl-wood/

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-54343340 

[3]https://www.buckinghamtoday.co.uk/news/environment/hs2-has-taken-over-calvert-jubilee-incredibly-sad-day-wildlife-2979552 

[4]https://www.leamingtoncourier.co.uk/news/environment/another-day-another-ancient-tree-felled-300-year-old-hunningham-oak-near-leamington-knocked-down-make-way-hs2-2984031

[5] FB Event link to Leamington and Kenilworth https://fb.me/e/1GMDeKPFy 

[6] FB event link  to Lichfield event https://fb.me/e/1xUe4lnSh 

[7] In London “The Westminster Rebellion” will, as every day from now until COP26 be at Carriage Gate in Parliament Square with rebels being drawn from Islington XR and HS2 Rebellion. The Faith Vigil will remain in Parliament Square while others will walk from Islington to the new camp in Euston Square to Parliament.  Contact 07833 321726 for final confirmation tomorrow.

[5] http://stophs2.org/news/19148-alternative-railway-proposals-hs2 

National Tree Killing Day Leaflet - On October 1st HS2 officially re-starts destruction of our ancient trees and woodlands to make way for the world's most expensive railway. Stop HS2 campaigners will be marking the day with speeches, information and socially distanced activities in Leamington town centre (1st & 3rd October) and Kenilworth town centre (2nd & 4th October). Come and find out about the campaign and how you can get involved. All welcome. Please be aware of social distancing guidelines. Please do not attend if you feel unwell.
National Tree Killing Day Leaflet – 1st October

About HS2

HS2 is set to destroy 108 ancient woodlands and almost 700 wildlife sites. As well as costing the UK tax payer well over £200 billion – the high speed rail project is already causing extensive and irreversible damage to the environment and will be a vast new source of carbon emissions for at least the next 120 years, as well as enabling mass airport expansion. 

The Government must scrap HS2 immediately, instead using the money to improve and invest in the NHS, and in local services and projects that adapt to the reality we face in this COVID-19 pandemic and  Climate and Ecological Emergency.

HS2 Rebellion

HS2 Rebellion is an alliance of groups and individuals campaigning against HS2. Including but not exclusively:StopHS2, Save Cubbington Woods, Crackley Woods protection Camp, Denham Ford Protection Camp, Poors Piece conservation Project and XR. It is entirely distinct from Extinction Rebellion, but does form part of the Movement of Movements, alongside other sister groups like Wildlife Rebellion, Animal Rebellion and Global Justice Rebellion. 

This people-powered campaign has been formed to stop  the ongoing corruption, deceit and devastation of government funded HS2 Ltd. Lives are being ruined, laws flouted and precious ecosystems are being destroyed while the country is suffering under the COVID-19 pandemic.  

We cannot stand by and watch this happen. As the NHS goes underfunded, money is being burnt and ancient trees are being torn down, we are rising up.

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