THE COUNCIL has criticised HS2 for the "brutal" cutting down of trees in an ancient woodland where breeding birds and rare butterflies live.

Sheephouse Wood is a 141-acre biological site of special scientific interest located east of Charndon in Buckinghamshire.

In recent weeks the authority has become aware of HS2 cutting back trees in Sheephouse Wood and made enquiries to HS2 as to why this was happening.

HS2 has stated that the works are required for safety/technical reasons to protect the bat structure they have decided to construct, and the railway line when it is operational, and that they have been given permission to do this by Natural England.

The council served a tree preservation order (TPO) on HS2 Limited to protect the ancient woodland where oak trees, and diverse ground flora should be cherished.

Buckinghamshire Council described HS2's felling of trees 'brutal' and said the TPO will mean the trees cannot be touched for up to six months.

Councillor Peter Martin, Deputy Cabinet Member for HS2 at Buckinghamshire Council said: “Part of the agreement we have with HS2 Limited is for ‘effective collaboration’.

"Despite this understanding, when we asked HS2 for more information and detail about what they are doing at Sheephouse Wood, they have not satisfactorily answered our questions or engaged in any depth about their plans.

"We need to know more about their rationale for cutting down irreplaceable ancient trees and as they are unwilling to provide any more detail we have no choice but to serve a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) on HS2 to protect this ancient woodland.

HS2 said they made "limited changes to the western edge of the wood" having been given an assent from Natural England.

This included "pruning and the removal of a small number of trees that are at risk of falling within the railway area – and the planting of a wider range of smaller trees and shrubs to improve biodiversity."

A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd said: “All leading environmental organisations agree that climate change is the biggest future threat to wildlife and habitats in the UK.

"By providing zero carbon journeys from day one, HS2 will help cut the number of cars and lorries on our roads, cut demand for domestic flights, and help the country’s push to reduce carbon emissions.

“At Sheephouse Wood, we have assent from Natural England to make some limited changes to the western edge of the wood.

"At the council’s request, we paused work two weeks ago to address their concerns and will continue to engage with them to explain why this work is necessary.”