Rare bats sightings mean continuing HS2 works could be criminal offence
Leigh Day lawyers have written a second letter to HS2 Limited to call for a halt to works at Jones Hill Wood, Buckinghamshire since the discovery of Barbastelle bats at the location.
On behalf of his client’s concern at the sightings in Jones Hill Wood, Wendover, solicitor Tom Short repeated the point that HS2 did not have the necessary licence to continue works which therefore was likely to amount to a criminal offence.
He asked HS2 Ltd to confirm that it would halt works to fell trees and disturb roosts at the site so that a full bat survey could be conducted. If that assurance is not received, an urgent injunction may be sought.
Since a first letter was sent to HS2 Ltd on Wednesday, 7 October, HS2 Ltd appear to have continued to carry out activities which are likely to disturb and harm Barbastelle bats at Jones’ Hill Wood.
There is video evidence that HS2 Ltd contractors have been deliberately shining high intensity lights into a known bat roost at Jones’ Hill Woods, despite the concerns raised that roosts may contain bats. It is widely recommended that artificial light is not shone directly onto bat roosts due to the detrimental impact this can have on bat survival. It has been found that light shone on to bat roosts can reduce the level of emergence of bats from their roosts. In the worst cases, this could potentially lead to starvation if bats are not emerging to forage and feed, or even entombment if bats become trapped within their roost due to a build-up of their own faeces.
Independent ecologists used bat detector equipment to find the barbastelle, a protected species listed as “near threatened” on the global IUCN red list, and compiled a report of their findings.
Paul Powlesland, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers and founder of Lawyers for Nature, which is involved in the case, reportedly told The Guardian: “This is the best evidence that Lawyers for Nature have seen of protective wildlife being interfered with by HS2 without a licence. [We] don’t really like to cry wolf about these things.”
Eileen Robley, of Nevis Eco Services, speaking on behalf of Jones Hill Wood campaigners, said: “Although HS2 Ltd holds a ‘Class Licence’ from Natural England in respect of bats, that licence does not currently authorise the works in question at Jones’ Hill Wood. Natural England has confirmed that Jones’ Hill Wood has not been registered under the class licence and thus that licence does not permit damaging or disturbing roosts at this site. In any event, the class licence does not cover any operations affecting Barbastelle bats, whether at this site or any other.”
Leigh Day solicitor Tom Short said: “The company is likely to be committing a criminal offence if it continues works at that location, particularly by felling trees, under Section 43 of the of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. Our client is anxious to see a stop to any further disturbance of the barbastelle bats at Jones Hill Wood and calls on HS2 Ltd to comply with the law.”