The battle for Sheephouse Wood appears to have been won by HS2, with the planning inspector allow further tree work by HS2 contractors next in Charndon, Buckinghamshire.
Councillor Peter Martin, Buckinghamshire Council’s deputy cabinet member for HS2, expressed his disappointment at the decision by the planning inspector to allow an appeal by HS2 Limited, which was seeking consent for development.
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, Buckinghamshire Council became aware of HS2 cutting back trees in Sheephouse Wood and asked why the work was happening. HS2 responded that the works were needed for safety and technical reasons, to protect both the bat mitigation structure that it planned to construct and the railway line when it became operational.
The bat mitigation structure is itself no small project – the structure will be around 1km in length and up to 10 metres high to shield bat flight paths from passing trains
The council served a tree preservation order (TPO), which ensured the trees were not touched for six months, pending negotiation over options to mitigate the impact of the works. HS2 continued to say that the removal of the trees was necessary and chose to appeal the council’s ‘non determination’ of its planning application for the bat mitigation structure.
The planning inspector upheld HS2’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.
In a statement, Buckinghamshire Council said: “The council still considers that the work being done at Sheephouse Wood is avoidable harm so we are pleased that the inspector has applied a condition to the planning consent that ensures further scrutiny by the council on the appearance of the [bat mitigation structure] and improved landscape design of the watercourse that runs through the site.”