HS2: Tree-felling at 'Roald Dahl wood' paused by High Court

image copyrightChris J Ratcliffe
image captionActivists had been sleeping in trees in Jones' Hill Wood, which is said to have inspired Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox

The felling of trees in the path of the HS2 rail link has been paused after the High Court gave protesters the right to apply for a judicial review.

The legal action was brought by Mark Keir from Earth Protector Communities.

Jones' Hill Wood near Wendover in Buckinghamshire is said to have inspired children's author Roald Dahl.

HS2 plans to create a new 22,000-tree woodland nearby. The court will decide if the case merits a judicial review after 24 May.

image copyrightChris Gorman
image captionThe construction site at the entrance to the HS2 Chiltern tunnel, beside the M25 in Denham, Buckinghamshire

The felling of the wood had been delayed since last year after bats were discovered at the site, which is in the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

On 30 March, Natural England's director for wildlife licensing and enforcement cases Dave Slater said: "After careful assessment, we have determined that the felling of a small number of trees at Jones' Hill Wood will not be detrimental to the overall conservation status of the bat populations in this area."

He added "mitigations", including the creation of new roosts, had been put in place and Natural England was granting a bat licence that allowed tree felling to take place.

Mr Keir's legal case has been brought to challenge Natural England's decision.

His solicitor Lisa Foster said: "The important principle raised in the case is that high ecological protections matter when destroying ecologically important habitat, even in the context of nationally significant infrastructure.

"This case will give the court the opportunity to determine if Natural England failed in its regulatory duty."

image copyrightMark Kerrison
image captionHS2 plans to link the remains of Jones' Hill Wood with a new woodland

Roald Dahl wrote his stories in the Buckinghamshire town of Great Missenden, and classics like Fantastic Mr Fox are said to have taken inspiration from the beech wood.

The construction and operation of Phase One of HS2 is authorised by the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Act 2017.

The HS2 company plans to create a new woodland, planting 22,000 trees, which will link to the remains of Jones' Hill Wood.

The estimated final cost of the HS2 project is now more than £100bn.

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