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Extinction Rebellion sets sights on HS2 project

Campaigners climbed trees in Colne Valley to the west of London to protect them from developers.

Extinction Rebellion protesters up trees in the Colne Valley to prevent them being felled for HS2 (Sarah Martin Morante/PA)
Extinction Rebellion protesters up trees in the Colne Valley to prevent them being felled for HS2 (Sarah Martin Morante/PA)

Extinction Rebellion are camping out in trees in Colne Valley to the north-west of London to prevent them being felled for the HS2 development.

Twelve people scaled the trees on Harvil Road in the London Borough of Hillingdon close to the nature reserve to protect them from the chainsaw.

The felling had been due to take place between 8am and 6pm on Saturday and Sunday, but could not commence due to the presence of the protesters and strong winds.

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The climbers are due to descend after 6pm today and return tomorrow morning.

Jo Rogers, spokeswoman for Extinction Rebellion, said: “Given strength of wind, (we’re) beginning to be concerned for climbers. So far they’re all happy and warm in blankets.”

She told the Press Association the group are concerned about the scale of tree-felling in the Colne Valley while the future of the HS2 rail project is still in doubt.

“(HS2) hasn’t even got planning permission for the whole line. We’re concerned that they are doing these things far sooner than they should be.”

Sarah Green, of local campaign group Save Colne Valley, said it would take at least 20 days for further road closures to be approved to allow the felling to take place.

“There’s no talking to HS2. They’re carrying on with no planning permission and no real plan.”

She estimates at least 2,000 trees have already been cleared from nearby sites by subcontractors to HS2 in the last month.

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The remains of trees already felled in the Colne Valley by HS2 (Johanna Rogers/PA)

Save Colne Valley also fears that the process of pile driving deep holes into the aquifer risks contaminating the water supply for 3.2 million Londoners.

Ms Green said: “We the customers must become the custodians in the absence of responsibility by our elected representatives.

“Pure water supplies for life and a sustainable future are essential. We have to act now.”

The park itself encompasses 43 square miles stretching from Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire to Staines, Surrey, and the banks of the Thames in the south, Uxbridge and Heathrow, in Hillingdon, in the east and Slough, Berkshire, in the west.

It has 200 miles of rivers, canals and over 60 lakes, according to its website.

We are killing our host, and this tree is a symbol of that for me. Protester Sian Cox

Sian Cox, 54, from Brecon, said: “Extinction Rebellion was the first time I was arrested and this is my first time at a protest site.

“The fight we have on our hands is to change the system that puts short-term economic growth ahead of the health of the biosphere we all rely on for life. We are killing our host, and this tree is a symbol of that for me.

“The only thing that works in a system that does not want to change is non-violent action like this.”

Manu Frosh, 41, said: “It is important that we protect our world. If I’m up a tree they can’t cut it down, and if enough people take this action they may realise people’s lives are more important than fast trains.”

A spokesman for HS2 said: “Our current works at that site are part of our ‘enabling’ work programme that happen prior to the start of main works construction.

“In the case of Harvil Road, it involves the diversion of a utility pipe. That work will continue as part of investing in HS2.”

He said he expected the trees to be felled at a later date.

HS2 said in a said in an earlier statement that the project “aims to be one of the most environmentally responsible infrastructure projects ever delivered in the UK”.

The statement read: “HS2 will create extra capacity on our transport network, taking cars and lorries off the road.

“The project will also deliver a new green corridor made up of more than 650 hectares of new woodland, wetland and wildlife habitats alongside the line.

“More than seven million new native trees and shrubs will be planted to help blend the line into the landscape and leave a lasting legacy of high quality green spaces all along the route.”

It added: “HS2 Ltd is working closely with the Environment Agency and Affinity Water to ensure construction activities do not adversely affect the flow, level or quality of surface waters and groundwater in the Chilterns-Colne Valley area.”

PA

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