Extinction Rebellion targets HS2 with Swampy tactics

27 April 2019, 19:19 | Updated: 30 April 2019, 12:14

Extinction Rebellion have claimed a temporary victory in their fight to save trees that were due to be cut down as part of the HS2 development.

Twelve protesters have been camping out in trees in Colne Valley to the northwest of London which had been due to be cut down between 8am and 6pm on Saturday and Sunday.

The work has been suspended because of the demonstrators and strong winds.

Jo Rogers, spokeswoman for Extinction Rebellion, said: "(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."

The activists spent about 10 hours in the trees on Harvil Road and have worked alongside other campaign groups.

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A tweet from group Stop HS2, who were posting images of the tree-climbers, read: " The quick version of how today has gone is #HS2 were going to close the road and cut down the trees that line it. Because there are people in the trees, they haven't done either of those things."

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."

Last October, a 62-year-old spent more than 20 hours under a large digger in Colne Valley to stop demolition work. A month later work was halted when four protesters tied themselves to structures in a field located in the valley.

The images of Extinction Rebellion protesters camping among the branches are reminiscent of demonstrations against the Newbury Bypass in the mid-1990s - with Daniel Hooper, better known as Swampy, among those stationing themselves up trees.

The park has 200 miles of rivers, canals and over 60 lakes and is home to a number of animals, including bats and owls.

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 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."