HS2 Update for August 2011

  |  Published: Aug 12th 2011

HS2 White Elephant Day

A big thank you to all those who turned up last Sunday. It appeared that everybody had some fun and at least the weather kept at bay for us. For those who asked, had we done two £33bn banners, we would have beaten the world record for table cloth, however we did use 2.6km of sellotape !

We had 750 people turn up and managed a reasonable amount of BBC and Meridian press coverage. We hope everybody is now spreading the word to sign the petition at www.gopetition.co.uk/petitions/stop-hs2/sign.html#se and fill in the Dft consultation.

One other big thank you, is that there was absolutely no litter left. Quite amazing; we simply could not find rubbish, when we cleared up !

For those detractors who complained about our ruining the countryside perhaps you might concentrate on fighting HS2, not us. As for those who persisted in removing the signs around the village for the event, do you support HS2 or stand to benefit from it ? In which case, why not air your views openly ?
Andrew Band
HS2 White Elephant Walk Co-ordinator

Speak up for wildlife on HS2 route before it's too late!

Please tell the Government why the proposed high speed rail route through Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire must be halted, and a proper environmental assessment done.

Thousands of members of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust have already completed the Government's consultation questionnaire, and there's little time for more people to 'speak up for wildlife' before the consultation ends on 29 July.

"This week we're sending more than 2,000 completed forms to the Government, and many people told us they used the online form," said Philippa Lyons, chief executive of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (pictured above with a wheelbarrow of forms)."We are hugely grateful to our members who responded to the consultation," said Philippa Lyons, chief executive of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust.

The consultation deadline is 29 July, so people can go on to the Wildlife Trust's website bbowt.org.uk, read about the beautiful woodlands and wildflower meadows the route is likely to devastate, and follow the link to the online form to let the Government know their views.

"The Government in its recently published Natural Environment White Paper recognises the need to remove barriers to the movement of wildlife, but HS2 will be just that – a 75metre wide sterile corridor with a core of concrete, steel and gravel," says Philippa Lyons.

"High Speed 2 is on track to break up dozens of valuable wildlife sites like important chalk streams and ancient woods."

A significant population of rare Bechstein's bats, one of the UK's rarest mammals, is located in woods close to the proposed HS2 route. Radio tracking shows some of the bats move between the woods, which mean they would be affected by HS2.

"This is just one example of the wildlife threatened by the railway," says Philippa Lyons. "There are also water voles on the River Misbourne, and black hairstreak butterflies in north Bucks."

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust and 35 other wildlife trusts in the UK wrote to the Prime Minister in June, asking him to withdraw the proposal for phase one of HS2 and carry out a strategic consideration of the role of High Speed Rail.

Bechstein's Bats

A significant population of rare Bechstein's bats has been discovered in Buckinghamshire - in ancient woodland either side of the proposed HS2 route and adjacent to the proposed site of a waste incinerator. Until 2010, only a single Bechstein's bat had been found in Bucks - in the far south of the county, at Cliveden.

In one woodland alone, (Grendon & Doddershall Woods) an amazing count of 65 Bechstein's bats were observed emerging at dusk from their roost inside a tree. Several tree roosts have been found and Bechstein's bats are now known to occur in 10 woods within the Bernwood Forest area of Buckinghamshire.

Bechstein's bats are one of the rarest mammals in the UK and they, their roosts and their breeding sites are strictly protected under UK and European law.

The discoveries have been made by volunteers undertaking the Bernwood Forest Bechstein's Project. The Project was set up in 2011 to expand on work undertaken by the North Bucks Bat Group and the Bat Conservation Trust in 2010. Bechstein's bats were discovered in three North Bucks woodlands in 2010, with a further incidental discovery in 2011 at Finemere Wood, a Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust nature reserve.

Chris Damant, who has been co-ordinating the Bernwood study says "The discoveries in 2010 were very exciting, but we realised we knew very little about how the bats were using the woodlands and which other woods they might also be in. Three of us who had been involved in the 2010 surveys, decided to find out more and we designed and sought funding for an independent research project. Local landowners have been very supportive and allowed us access for the study."

Toby Thorne, another bat expert on the Project continues, "We never expected to find Bechstein's bats in North Bucks last year; let alone the significant breeding population we've identified this year. It just goes to show you don't need to go abroad to discover rare wildlife – we've done it at home!"

The team has also undertaken radio-tracking studies of individual bats. Tiny radio transmitters were attached to 4 female Bechstein's bats, which were then followed for up to 11 days and nights. Two bats stayed close to their tree roost in one woodland, whilst the other two were found to move up to 3km between woodlands in the area, including crossing the proposed route of HS2. Jo Hodgkins, ecologist on the Project team says, "The bats appear to be using a network of woodlands in the area and some are moving between woods. It's really important that we understand how they are using the landscape, before major infrastructure projects change it. If we don't, how can the impact of such developments be assessed? The radio-tracking work is in its early days and we plan to follow more bats in the coming months. We've still got more woods to survey as well – we're only a quarter of the way through our initial research - who knows what else we'll discover!"

And it's not just Bechstein's bats being found; the Project team has so far recorded a total of 10 species of bat in these woodlands, with some species such as the protected Brown Long-eared bat being recorded in large numbers. The Bernwood Forest area appears to be an important 'hotspot' for bats!
Bernwood Forest Bechstein's Project

White Elephant Walk

More than 500 people walked from Wendover to the top of Coombe Hill to show their opposition to HS2. Large white elephants were present at the start and end of the walk, and the figures '£33bn?' were unfurled on the hill in huge letters, right above the Prime Minister's residence at Chequers. The story featured on several news channels and in the press.Wendover HS2
Sunday 10 July

To all who turned out for the White Elephant Walk on Sunday 10 July a very big thank you. It was an opportunity to see who cares about HS2, the destruction that will be wrought upon the Chilterns and above all the financial cost to every household in the country for very little gain. We managed television coverage on both BBC Oxford and Meridian on ITV and have also been well supported by coverage in the Bucks Free Press. To those of you who were too lazy or apathetic, I wonder if you will be among the first to complain when the library closes; you have a long wait in A&E; to see your GP; your bins are emptied once every two weeks; or no police officer turns up to address your complaint? Lastly, to the sneak who toured Wendover vandalizing or removing our signs and posters, stand up and be counted. If you are in favour of HS2 start your own Wendover group and show your face. Once again a big thank you to the organizers, those who can do, those who can't just wait for somebody else to do it!
Peter Littlewood
Wendover HS2 Information Centre

The information centre closed at the end of July. We are grateful to the owner for allowing Wendover HS2 to use the premises on favourable terms for the duration of the consultation period, and to all the volunteers who staffed it so ably. We are now seeking an alternative base for the campaign.
Wendover HS2
HS2 next steps

With the end of the consultation, the national campaign against HS2 is now taking on a different focus: MPs whose constituencies lie away from the route. Most of the MPs who will eventually have to vote on HS2 have little interest, one way or the other, in the project. The goal, over the next few months, is to raise awareness among these MPs, and this can only be done effectively through their own constituents. So we urge everyone in Wendover to contact their friends living away from the route and ask them to write to their MP telling them they do not wish the Government to spend £30+ billion on this project, which will be of benefit to so few, and that the Government should focus instead on improving existing services for everyone. The Wendover HS2 team is developing a new website to help on this front, which will shortly be available at www.highspeedrail.org.uk.

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