Following a grueling eviction process at Jones Hill Woods it appears direct action resistance has bought enough time to save the area from being bulldozed for a controversial high-speed rail line until at least next Spring.
The confrontation at the woodlands near Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire saw violent scenes by Thames Valley Police officers against lock-ons and a dangerous round of treehouse evictions by security forces which only came to a close on Friday last week.
The woods, which are thought to have been an inspiration for the classic children’s novel Fantastic Mr Fox, have been dubbed the Roald Dahl woods by activists and have drawn a wide range of people to their defence, including an appearance from famed Nineties figure Swampy.
The eviction process has dramatically slowed progress on HS2, which is attempting to plough a line from London to Birmingham which takes it directly through more than 100 woodland sites — and in the process gave legal eagles time to mount a challenge over the destruction it’s causing.
Thames Valley Police has belatedly accepted the need for works to stop after an ecological team found that an endangered bat population was roosting in the woods. Barbastelle bats, which are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and listed as a priority species, is well outside the contract rights for the HS2 works and as a result, all further demolition will have to be halted until a full study has been completed.
The situation is further complicated by difficulties in finding the bats, which mate in autumn but then hibernate for the winter, finding roosts from October onwards. Realistically, a comprehensive survey of their numbers and movements won’t be possible until they re-emerge around April next year and survey work is unlikely to begin much before May 2021. Any disturbance to trees in the meantime by HS2 contractors will be an offence.
Activist Mark Keir said:
“We are of course immensely proud and ever so happy over this stay of execution, but this is but one small woodland. Somewhere deep down there is an uncomfortable realisation of the work still to be done over the current 140-mile route length.”
Five people have been charged with aggravated trespass over the course of the eviction resistance, including Swampy. Four others have been accused of variously resisting arrest, assault and bail breaches All five are scheduled to appear in High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court on November 16th.