There has been recent media coverage in the Guardian, the Independent and the Bucks Free Press around a court order Natural England has received regarding a bat species licence issued to HS2 that will enable them to progress with the felling of woodland at Jones’ Hill Wood, which is close to the route in Buckinghamshire.
The court order, which was issued on Friday 16 April, came following a legal challenge to the bat licence that was issued to HS2 contractors, with a hearing scheduled for late May or early June. The case for a Judicial Review was found to be ‘not arguable’ by the High Court and therefore permission for a full Judicial Review was denied. The suspension of the licence was also reversed.
Natural England’s role in licensing development is to ensure that activities affecting protected species are carried out without damaging those populations, it does not have powers to stop projects that have been approved, or to delay them unnecessarily, nor does it have powers to prevent the felling of ancient woodland if it has been approved by the planning system.
Dave Slater, Natural England's Director for Wildlife Licensing and Enforcement cases, said:
We welcome the Court’s ruling today, which recognises that we applied our expertise and judgement appropriately and lawfully in our decision relating to Jones’ Hill Wood.
We fully understand people’s concerns at the felling of woodland and the impact on protected species. The licence we have granted sets out strict conditions under which these works must to be carried out to ensure that bat populations are not negatively impacted.
The compensation measures that must be put in place include creating new roosting features, bat boxes and the planting of 3.2 hectares of woodland habitat and fruit trees on an adjacent site. Further information on the case can be read on Natural England’s blog, here.
Natural England continues to work both with HS2 and other concerned stakeholders during the works, and its staff will undertake a site visit during felling to ensure that licence conditions are being met.