HS2 High Court bid threatens to crush people’s right to peacefully protect nature - BBOWT

HS2 Ltd is threatening to 'crush people's right to peacefully protect nature' with a legal bid this week, BBOWT has warned.

A footpath at BBOWT's Calvert Jubilee nature reserve closed by HS2 workers in December 2019.
A footpath at BBOWT's Calvert Jubilee nature reserve closed by HS2 workers in December 2019.

The company's High Court hearing on Thursday seeks a route-wide injunction making it a criminal offence for anyone to enter what it calls “HS2 land” or delay its operations.

It also aims to criminalise “slow walking in front of vehicles in the vicinity of the HS2 Land”.

The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) - which has long opposed the high-speed rail project because of the associated environmental damage - is warning that the bid threatens people's right to peacefully protest the construction.

Matthew Stanton, Head of Planning and Advocacy for BBOWT, said: “This injunction would stamp on people’s right to protest peacefully against this environmental disaster. This is an affront to democracy, undermining people’s legal rights to make their voices heard. HS2 Ltd has continued to fail in its duties to protect nature and while we do not support illegal protest, people must be allowed to protest against this peacefully, without fear of breaking the law.”

The Wildlife Trust has long opposed HS2, not least because of the impact on its nature reserves: the rail company took possession of parts of the charity's Calvert Jubilee reserve between Bicester and Buckingham in 2020 to facilitate the construction; its nearby Finemere Wood reserve is directly affected by the works, and staff and visitors also now have to cross land under HS2 possession to get into the Trust's Bacombe Hill reserve near Wendover.

Security staff have already been accused of being heavy-handed and some BBOWT members have complained to the Trust that they have been intimidated by these staff and have avoided the nature reserves in question as a consequence.

Mr Stanton warned that "Emboldening security staff with such an injunction risks making the situation worse".

He also warned that HS2’s fencing in some areas is so poor that visitors to some of the Trust's nature reserves were able to freely wander onto “HS2 Land” without even realising it. Should they accidently walk onto HS2 land after an injunction is granted they could technically find themselves facing criminal proceedings.

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Posted On: 25/05/2022

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