CAMPAIGNERS have set up camp in Cubbington’s ancient woodland to protect it from HS2 contractors.
Some ten residents have built an encampment in South Cubbington Wood in a bid to stop further clearance of land in the path of the controversial high speed rail line.
It follows an announcement by transport secretary Grant Shapps who said historic woodland would not be removed while a review into HS2 was ongoing.
But Mr Shapps’ statement came with the caveat delaying work did not have “major impacts on cost and schedule”, which the Cubbington campaigners fear HS2 Ltd is using as a get-out clause to continue work.
Campaigners say they are determined to stop contractors felling any trees in the wood – which are also home to a 200-year-old award-winning pear tree.
Matt Bishop, who organised the encampment, said: “They came to start work and fell the trees, in some places which are 100 metres across, but contractors have agreed not to do it for a week as we are here.
“At the moment all of us in camp are very excited. They came to start work and we have stopped them.
“Technically we are squatters on their land, and HS2 have to allow for a court order to get us to move which will take around a week.
“We want people to come and see what we are doing here and visit the beautiful woodland. I have been blown away stopping here at night, listening to the owls is just amazing. It’s such a special place.”
A high court enforcement officer failed in attempts to ‘politely’ get the protesters to leave on Tuesday, despite HS2 telling The Observer it had no plans to take legal action to remove those camping in the woods.
A spokesman said areas were currently ‘being assessed’.
He told the Observer: “We must strike a sensible balance during the review, between keeping the programme on track, and recognising some works cannot be undone. We are working to assess these areas and their impacts while the review is ongoing.
“We are continuing some work as scheduled in south Cubbington to establish a compound, prepare the site for future work, install fencing and establish internal roads. This also includes significant ecological mitigation as part of our green corridor programme, including tree planting and the creation of wildlife habitats. Eventually 60,000 trees will be planted in south Cubbington with around a third of those already in the ground.
“We are aware a small number of protestors have gained access to one of our sites and have established a presence within South Cubbington Wood. We are in close contact with the group, as we seek to ensure their safety and welfare on site.”
But The Woodland Trust has blasted the reckless haste which HS2 was removing ancient woodland and was concerned work could also soon start at Crackley Woods in Kenilworth and in Stoneleigh before the review was completed.
A spokesman said: “This reckless destruction must stop. Rare, precious, irreplaceable ancient woodland should be completely off limits pending the outcome of the independent review. No arguments. No exceptions.
The review into the high speed line – 54 kilometres of which will cut through Warwickshire – is headed by former HS2 chairman Douglas Oakervee. It will look at HS2’s benefits and impacts, affordability and efficiency, deliverability and scope. It is expected to be completed by the end of the year.