A campaign to protect rare bats from being harmed by the HS2 has intensified.

The campaign to protect oak trees on Leather Lane in Great Missenden has now also become a race to protect a rare species of bats.

Leather Lane was at the centre of national attention three years ago when a line of 100 oak trees was at risk of being felled for the HS2 construction.

Only 12 oaks have been felled so far. A 250-year-old 'Ilona the oak' was saved from felling after a tireless campaign. 

Since monitoring by the Leather Lane Conservation Group (formerly known as Save Leather Lane) revealed the area is used by the rare barbastelle bat, the group is now demanding HS2 to build a green bridge over the track.

Bucks Free Press: One of the regular bat walks organised by the Leather Lane Conservation GroupOne of the regular bat walks organised by the Leather Lane Conservation Group (Image: Chartridge Photographic)

Secretary of the group Jim Conboy said the “worst-case scenario” was that without the green bridge the railway “would divide the habitat up or the bats would end up dead.”

“Without the green bridge, the cuttings are about 60 metres on each side of the railway and bats are not encouraged to fly across,” he said.

The speed of the trains could also harm the bats, Jim said. 

Secretary of the group Jim Conboy was carefully optimistic that a green bridge was “on the menu” for HS2 and its contractors to build after “rumours.”

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Chesham and Amersham MP Sarah Green commented the Leather Lane situation: "Given the scale of the HS2 works there is a need to protect biodiversity and in particular endangered species such as the Barbastelle Bats at Leather lane. I urge HS2 to adhere to the mitigation hierarchy and ensure the bats get the protection they need."

Buckinghamshire Council and Chesham Town councillor Jane McBean called for HS2 to use “good design and in keeping with the nature” in the area which facilitates a green corridor, she explained.

She told the Free Press: “We have bats and it’s been proven now that it’s a [bat] maternity roosting site. They use sonar from the trees, which are incredibly rich in insects. The bats forage in the trees and use the line of oaks. Removing the line of trees removes that for the bats.”

An on-going GoFundMe campaign to protect the remaining oaks and the bats has raised more than £31,000. 

A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd said: “All leading wildlife organisations agree that climate change is the biggest future threat to wildlife and habitats in the UK. We urge everyone interested in tackling climate change to support new zero carbon public transport that will take cars and lorries off the road, and reduce domestic flying.

“We are looking a number of options for how to take Leather Lane over the cutting which will carry the line north from the Chiltern tunnel towards Wendover. This design work is based on extensive surveys of the local bat population carried out over the last two years. Alongside the railway, HS2 is also delivering the country’s largest environmental programme - planting 7 million trees and creating 33 square kilometres of wildlife habitats.”