Petition update

LEADING EXPERT AGREES; FRAGMENTATION OF LEATHER LANE WILL INEVITABLY LEAD TO BAT POPULATION DECLINE

Blaize O'Callaghan
United Kingdom

Jul 15, 2021 — 

Hi all,

As I have previously mentioned, road closures are planned for Leather Lane this Monday 19th July to fell up to 15 oak trees along the planned track, putting wildlife and this vital bat corridor at risk.

Leading expert John Altringham, Emeritus Professor of Ecology and Conservation at the University of Leeds who advises national authorities including Natural England and the Bat Conservation Trust on bat ecology and conservation issues has agreed with us that felling of these trees should be stopped. He confirmed yesterday that a bat corridor is vital for bat survival:

'a 'bat-corridor', that is a commuting route (or flight corridor) and/or a foraging site, is indeed vital bat habitat that must be protected alongside roosts. Bats of course need roosts, foraging sites and secure flight corridors between them to survive. Loss of any one of these components endangers the population. Protecting roosts alone is simply inadequate.'

With particular regards to Leather Lane, he says:

'Having looked at the bat report and the maps of nearby ancient woodland, it is self-evident that as few trees as possible should be removed, to retain foraging habitat, roost potential and connectivity across this fragmented landscape. All species are under considerable pressure and their small populations reflect the already degraded nature of the landscape. Further stress on species through habitat degradation, loss and fragmentation will inevitably lead to further decline and possibly local extinction.'

It is the height of summer when bats and endless other wildlife are active and using the trees and eco system along Leather Lane for habitat, foraging and commuting. Felling at this time not only goes against the Precautionary Principle adopted by HS2 in their Environmental Statement, it is in contravention of their Local Environmental Management plans and all good practice regarding wildlife protection, prevention and mitigation.

Barbastelle bats have been detected using the Leather Lane bat corridor – they have recently lost roosts at nearby Jones Hill Wood and their species is under threat – putting them on to the endangered list and affording protection under the Habitats directive.

Yesterday John Altringham confirmed:

'The Annex II barbastelle already has a thin and patchy distribution in the UK, so local loss of this species is of national importance, in part because it leads to ever more isolated local populations which become increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and other pressures.

Leather Lane is an ancient, sunken lane, known as a Holloway. It is lined to the south with 99 oak trees, planted by Arthur Lazenby Liberty in the late 1800s and set within the Central Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

This irreplaceable bat corridor is under threat as HS2 plan the over bridge on the Southern Side, putting endless Oak trees and the eco system there under threat. This will fragment the corridor and impact the bats ability to forage and travel between other habitats, threatening bat populations and putting the conservation status of the endangered barbastelle bat under threat.

Also at risk, a magnificent lone oak, identified as tree number 144, older by far than those on the lane, stands at almost 200 years and at least 37 metres away from the track cutting.

John Altringham agrees that felling the trees in the height of Summer should be stopped and that all felling of mature trees should only happen when there is absolutely no alternative and that even this should be clearly explained and accounted for. He says :

'Planting any number of new trees is no excuse for removing established trees unless it is absolutely unavoidable – and the reasons why it is unavoidable must be clearly stated. Newly planted trees are never an adequate substitute for mature trees and could take decade before they are of any real ecological value. I am surprised that the removal of trees in high summer is even considered, given their importance to a wide range of wildlife at this time.'

HS2 and EKFB have failed to uphold their legal obligations and own standards and commitments to Ecology and biodiversity and no mitigation has been put in place. As a result, we stand to lose this irreplaceable Holloway and bat corridor with a huge impact on the Chilterns Landscape, biodiversity and bat species at a local level and national level. With the government’s recent G7 re-commitment to halt biodiversity loss, this issue is especially poignant at this critical time for the Environment.

In the absence of surveys from HS2, concerned local residents have stepped in to commission several bat surveys, which show at least 7 species of bat, including the endangered Barbastelle bat continually using the vital corridor in high numbers.

Furthermore, the current designs are for standard two-way road which do not take in to account the Design Principles submitted to protect the AONB1 and will require more land and earth works.

Locals residents, with the support of bat experts, ecologists, engineers and lawyers are campaigning to reduce the over bridge to a one-way road on the Northern side and to provide mitigation for the bats to get over the tracks; saving lives and re-connecting the fragmented landscape which will lead to population decline if not addressed.

We demand that EKFB:
1.     Stop felling until bridge design is agreed and bats go in to hibernation;
2.     Seriously consider the design to route the overbridge to the Northern side;
3.     Adopt the design principles submitted by the Chilterns AONB group and fulfil assurances to parliament by allowing a lane instead of a 2 way road, in keeping with the Holloway and Chilterns AONB;
4.     Create a green corridor over the track cutting (to retain connectivity between the oaks)  for the bats to prevent unnecessary deaths and protect their conservation status;
5.     Fulfil promises and legal obligations that HS2 and EKFB have committed to and are bound by in law;
6.     Listen to the community and stop using excuses to sidestep key issues.

*** IT IS CRUCIAL THAT WE SAVE, NOT ONLY LEATHER LANE BUT THE BIODIVERSITY AND ENDAGERED SPECIES THAT THRIVE THERE*** We now need money for a barrister, solicitor, civil engineer to provide the bridge design, ongoing costs and ecologists to carry out possible ecological surveys to support our case.. SO PLEASE, PLEASE CONTINUE TO DONATE TO OUR CROWDFUNDING HERE: https://gofund.me/8d6f44b0 *** OR IF YOU WOULD PREFER TO DONATE DIRECTLY, FIND MY PAYPAL HERE: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/blaizeoc ***


Blaize x


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