Update – Nov 2023

Update – Nov 2023

1. We held our last bat walk of the year on 30 September. One advantage of the nights drawing in earlier is that we had a good attendance by local children who were thrilled to see and hear our bats. Our bat walks promote the understanding of the importance of Bat ecology and conservation and raise awareness of our local bat population.

Feedback from our last bat walk from one of the children attending:

“It was really fun and everybody should do it. You see loads of bats!”

Here is a short video of our last bat walk .

2. In May 2023 the LLCG collected Bat data for the third year running and presented a detailed report to Bucks Council ecology team, as agreed at the meeting with EKFB (former HS2 subcontractors working at LL) in May 2022. The report highlighted the vital importance of no further fragmentation of the wildlife corridor at LL and further, elevated numbers of barbastelle bats identified in late summer each year, indicates that LL could potentially be a juvenile sustenance zone (‘JSZ’), providing a vital feeding habitat for young bats, who only travel 1km from maternity roost when born in late summer.  Further collection of Bat data over the next 3 years will provide evidence of this as a trend shown in results. To destroy a JSZ would have a national impact on the UK species numbers. 

3. In July 2023 the LLCG presented its campaign for a green bridge at Leather Lane to ensure that connectivity is restored for all wildlife, particularly bats, once the over-road is built at Leather Lane. It is vitally important as the HS2 project has removed every other east-west wildlife corridor for at least 8km.

4. October 29th 2023 – A year celebration  – Ilona still in the ground.

We invited all supporters of the campaign to save Ilona the Lone Oak to log in to The Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Inventory and comment. We reminded them that Align have recently taken over from EKFB and we can’t take it for granted that Align will know the depth of local feeling for Ilona and that we may be calling on them to write to Align to add their voices to the campaign again. A year ago over 200 residents wrote to HS2 CEO Mark Thurston to object to HS2’s plan to fell Ilona for ‘landscaping’.

5. October 2023 –  LLCG are very aware that nothing has been confirmed in writing about Ilona’s safety and therefore emailed Align about our concerns – informing them of the amount of energy and commitment that has been given by local residents, The Woodland Trust, Bucks councillors, Parish councillors and our MP Sarah Green into saving her and asking for commitment in return from them to read and respond to our options for alternatives to felling her as set out in our email to HS2 in September 2022.

Our letter was copied to Sarah Green MP, Bucks Council and Great Missenden Parish Council and The Woodland Trust. 

6. A response was received on 27 October 2034 stating that Align are already fully aware of the issues surrounding Ilona and that at their opening meeting with Bucks Councillors they set it out as an early issue to resolve.

We are very cautiously optimistic about Ilona’s fate. 

Leather Lane

7. After the meeting in May 2022, when we presented our alternative over-road designs for LL on the north side of the lane –  it was agreed that EKFB would carry out their own bat surveys and present their findings to the Bucks Council ecology team. The LLCG team decided to do the same. 

Our fully researched and professionally investigated and prepared report was completed in 2023 and presented to BC ecology team in May 2023. (See link above). To date, no such bat data report has been presented to Bucks Council by EKFB, despite numerous verbal and written assurances from EKFB that it was being prepared for presentation. 

8. Despite continuous calls for a follow up meeting between all parties, from Bucks Council, the Parish Council and LLCG, EKFB failed to commit to a meeting date.

9. In late September 2023, the LLCG became aware that Align would be taking over construction at Leather Lane from EKFB. So, in preparation for the public announcement made in October, we wrote a letter to Align that we sent to them immediately the announcement became public knowledge.

We requested in that letter that Align give serious consideration to our design proposals.

10. We have received positive feedback from Bucks Council about Align’s intentions to meet with LLCG in the very near future to discuss proposals for the Leather Lane over-road designs. 

We are looking forward to further engagement with Align. 

11. We were pleased to receive national press coverage in the venerable French broadsheet ‘Le Monde’. A rough translation of the quote is below:

Opponents of HS2 are also frustrated, with the section between London and Birmingham being retained [whilst the Birmingham to Manchester leg was scrapped], because earthworks for the future tracks are already underway to the north-west of London and two giant tunnel boring machines have already excavated more than half of the 15 kilometres of the railway tunnel beneath the Chilterns. Carol-Anne O’Callaghan has no words harsh enough to express her resentment. Along with other inhabitants of the Chilterns, this retired teacher fought for three years to preserve Leather Lane, an ancient holloway bordered by a hundred venerable oak trees, most of which were slated for felling because they were close to the high-speed line. It is around Leather Lane in the beautiful Bucks countryside that the novelist Roald Dahl drew inspiration for his novel ‘Fantastic Mister Fox’. “The trees along the path form an exceptional habitat, sheltering up to eight species of bats, they serve as a maternity ward and sustenance zone” explains Carol-Anne.

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