7th Jun, 2020

HS2 protestors claim contractors failing to observe social distancing measures

Laura Kearns 27th Mar, 2020 Updated: 27th Mar, 2020

HS2 protestors claim contractors have been failing to observe social distancing measures after the country went into lockdown.

Campaigners against the high speed line have hit out at developers for continuing to work during the coronavirus outbreak.

They also say contractors have been failing to maintain a safe distance in a bid to stop the spread of the disease.

Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin believes rural communities are being put at risk due to the number of elderly residents using local shops along with contractors.

He said: “Many contractors are coming to work on HS2 from all areas of the country. This is a severe concern, as while the contractors themselves are largely in low-risk groups, they are coming into small rural communities with high proportions of elderly residents.

“The lack of amenities in many of these isolated villages, with many areas having only one shop open for miles around, makes contractors and locals trying to occupy the same space inevitable.

“Not only must work stop now, but with there being so many other things that now desperately need the money that has been earmarked for HS2, work should stop, and never start again.”

But HS2 say they are working within government guidelines.

A spokeswoman said: “To ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of our workforce and the communities in which we are working, only construction sites that can maintain government guidelines and are critical to the delivery of HS2 will remain operational.

“As a result, the majority of our sites have paused or are pausing construction works. Those sites still working are doing so because they are confident they are operating within PHE guidelines, and will be monitored and remain under constant review.”

Protestors’ concerns come days after they were forced to leave a camp set up in South Cubbington Woods.

It follows a nine month injunction granted by a judge sitting at Birmingham’s Business and Property Courts. It also prevents them setting up new camps on land including Broadwells and Birches Wood.

They have been living in the camp for more than six months in a bid to stop the high speed line going ahead and to hold contractors to account.

Matt Bishop who founded the camp said: “The campaign to Save Cubbington Woods was founded on the principles of non-violent direct action – to resist with peaceful courage in the face of adversity.

“Our efforts have been acknowledged by the High Court, but it has also granted an injunction preventing us from remaining in these woods.

“To show my respect for the need for law and social order, I will very regretfully leave the woods. But we cannot expect a peaceful and law-abiding society if we have one law for the privileged few and a different law for others.”

Mr Bishop is concerned about HS2’s plans to fell ancient woodland in Cubbington Woods, Crackley Woods, Broadwells Wood and Birches Wood from April 1 which he says is during nesting season.

He added: “If HS2 proceed to fell ancient woodland during the nesting season, who will stand for the trees?”

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