“EXTREMELY” bright lights that have been set up in an ancient woodland by HS2 have been criticised by the Chiltern Society for disturbing neighbours and roosting bats.

Jones Hill Wood near Wendover has been the subject of a string of protests and sit-ins by anti-HS2 campaigners who want to stop the area being destroyed to make way for the controversial railway line.

They have also raised fears about the effect the HS2 work would have on wildlife - in particular Barbastelle bats.

In a letter to HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston sent this week, Chiltern Society trustee John Gladwin urged contractors to take “immediate action” to identify all bat roosts in the area, carry out bat surveys and remove the bright lights.

Mr Gladwin said: “As you will appreciate the destruction of ancient woodland upsets many people and the wood was occupied by a number of people for several months.

“HS2 Ltd have installed contractors to cut down this ancient woodland.

“The contractors are maintaining a number of extremely bright lights at night, which is a distraction for local residents and unsuitable in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“Further Barbastelle Bats have been found to have roosts in the wood.

“As you will be aware bats are a protected species, and as such disturbing them in any way, whether it is cutting down their trees or introducing bright lights at night into their roosting habitats is a criminal offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, unless the appropriate licence has been obtained.”

An HS2 spokesman said the bright lighting is there for security reasons after a number of protesters illegally entered the site to stop work there.

He added: “HS2 takes its legal obligations seriously, and all our ecology work is carried out in accordance with the law. It is designed to minimise disturbance to wildlife, including bats, in accordance with the HS2 Phase One Code of Construction Practice and all relevant wildlife legislation.

“If bat roosts are identified, licenses from Natural England will be sought to ensure that we have the right safeguarding in place.

“Professionally qualified environmental staff are on site during operations and all works are overlooked by an Ecological Clerk of Works.”