HS2 Secures Approval for Tree Work in Charndon’s Sheephouse Wood
The ongoing debate over Sheephouse Wood in Charndon, Buckinghamshire, has reached a pivotal moment, with HS2 gaining the upper hand.
The planning inspectorate has given the green light for HS2 contractors to proceed with tree management activities, a development that has sparked considerable disappointment among local officials.
Councillor Peter Martin, Deputy Cabinet Member for HS2 at Buckinghamshire Council, voiced his dismay at the inspectorate’s decision to permit an appeal by HS2 Limited. This appeal sought approval for development activities within the area. “The decision to allow further tree work within Sheephouse Wood, a site revered for its scientific interest and ancient woodland status, is a profound setback,” Martin commented. He views this as an unnecessary assault on the environment, one that disregards the local community’s well-being and the intrinsic value of the natural landscape, already strained by the rail line’s construction.
The controversy first unfolded in March 2023 when Buckinghamshire Council discovered HS2’s tree-felling operations in Sheephouse Wood. Upon enquiry, HS2 cited safety and technical necessities as the rationale behind their actions, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding the proposed bat mitigation structure and the future railway’s integrity.
The bat mitigation project, a significant undertaking designed to protect bat flight paths from the disturbance of passing trains, is envisaged to stretch approximately 1km in length and rise to heights of up to 10 metres.
In response to HS2’s activities, the council issued a tree preservation order (TPO), effectively halting any further tree work for six months, allowing time for discussions on mitigating the environmental impact. Despite this, HS2 pressed on with their appeal against the council’s decision not to determine their planning application for the bat mitigation structure promptly.
With the planning inspector siding with HS2, the development has now been authorised to proceed, including necessary tree felling. However, Buckinghamshire Council remains steadfast in its opposition, asserting that the damage being inflicted upon Sheephouse Wood could be avoided. They have welcomed the imposition of a condition by the inspector, requiring further council oversight concerning the bat mitigation structure’s appearance and the enhancement of the landscape surrounding the site’s watercourse.