Protesters march against 'concrete electrified scar' of HS2 as Chris Packham legal challenge looms

  • Video report by Environment Correspondent Charlotte Cross

With songs and banners, people in the Warwickshire village of Cubbington gathered once again to protest the pending arrival of HS2 - as well as all the work which will go along with it.

Dozens of people, including members of Stop HS2, HelpStopHS2 and Extinction Rebellion, marched through the centre of the village before heading down the main Rugby Road to HS2’s nearby site.

As well as demonstrating against the project as a whole, the demonstration was intended as a show of support for a case going before the Court of Appeal tomorrow, brought by wildlife campaigner and TV presenter Chris Packham.

“HS2 is a concrete electrified scar which will cut people here off from the surrounding countryside,” local campaigner, Matthew Bishop, told ITV Central today.

“We’re behind Chris Packham, and we wanted to show that today.

“It’s great to see so many people out - and you can see the diversity of people whose lives are being ruined by HS2.”

Matthew was among those who camped out at nearby South Cubbington Woods - an ancient woodland in line to be badly hit by the high speed rail project.

Stop HS2 protest march through Cubbington village Credit: ITV News Central

“When they’re putting more than £100 billion into this, with everything else going on in the country, it’s just not the right thing to be focusing on,” another campaigner, Charlotte Griffin, said.

She said that many people who attended were wearing masks, and were being encouraged to socially distance.

But with work on the project continuing throughout lockdown, and huge swathes of the countryside around Cubbington and Offchurch now fenced off, she said the time was right to continue protesting.

“People are obviously aware of the current situation, and we’re very mindful and respectful of that, but at the same time we do need to make a stand today for this,” she added.

“Everybody here passionately loves the planet, trees, and essentially we need to put people and planet before profit.”

HS2 says that two hectares of the 33.6ha ancient woodland would be affected by the project - and insists that 6.7ha of new broadleaved woodland habitat will be planted to link the habitats of Cubbington Wood and the River Leam Corridor; as well as preserving and relocating two hectares of ancient woodland soils to join up Cubbington Wood and Weston Wood.

A spokesperson said: “HS2 is already playing a pivotal role in helping Britain’s economic recovery as the country emerges from lockdown, offering over 400,000 contract opportunities for UK businesses and providing for thousands of jobs right across the country.

“All leading wildlife organisations agree that climate change is the biggest future threat to wildlife and habitats in the UK. By providing a cleaner, greener way to travel, HS2 will help cut the number of cars and lorries on our roads, cut demand for domestic flights, and help the country’s fight against climate change. We’d urge environmental groups to help us in getting people out of their cars, off planes and onto low-carbon, high speed rail.”

Mr Packham’s case will go before the Court of Appeal tomorrow, when a judge will decide whether he is able to appeal an earlier decision by the courts not to hold a judicial review into HS2.

If approved, they will hear the application for the review in the same hearing.

He argues that the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary failed to have regard to the implications of the Paris Agreement when they took the decision to give the project the green light.

If his legal bid fails, the woodland at Cubbington is in line for felling in the autumn.