A HOTSPOT for rare bats discovered around Calvert has led to calls for halt to the HS2 plans while a proper wildlife assessment is carried out.
The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust issued the call after a four year national survey into rare Bechstein’s Bats found several females at Finemere Wood in May.
Other groups of adults females with their young were discovered in nearby woods last year.
Bechstein’s bats are one of Britain’s rarest mammals and receive the highest level of wildlife protection under UK and EU law.
Phillippa Lyons, BBOWT chief executive said: “If the HS2 route rips through this it will destroy another important wildlife site.
“The Government hasn’t considered the route’s devastating impact on wildlife at all, which is astounding when you consider the scale of the HS2 development. If HS2 Ltd had done a proper environmental assessment, they would be aware of all the wildlife that will be affected.”
Bechstein’s bats, and their roosting and maternity sites, are protected under EU and UK wildlife laws. As a European Protected Species and UK Biodiversity Action Plan species, they have the highest possible level of statutory wildlife protection in the UK.
Ms Lyons added: “This means that it’s against the law to damage, destroy or obstruct their habitats and roosts,
“The proposed HS2 route could have a severe impact on the ability of the bats to breed, and might even lead to the extinction of this local population.
“HS2 must be halted and a proper Strategic Environmental Assessment carried out before any decisions on the route are made. We are not convinced that the Government is taking its responsibilities for the environment and wildlife seriously,”
Matt Dodds of the North Bucks Bat Group, which carried out local survey work said the area was a hotspot for Bechstein’s Bats and added: “Until last year’s find, Bechstein’s bats had never been recorded this far north-east in England, and their discovery was a big surprise.
“We don’t yet know how far this population is distributed, but local landowners are really supportive and keen for us to investigate this further. The ancient woodland and habitat links between them in the Bernwood Biodiversity Opportunity Area must be protected for the Bechstein’s bats to survive.”
More than 50 designated wildlife sites in Bucks and Oxon are likely to be directly impacted by the HS2 route.
Ancient woodlands, tranquil meadows and valuable wetlands could be destroyed, breaking up the habitats for butterflies, wildflowers, birds and animals, including bats.