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STAFFORDSHIRE: Protest camp set up along HS2 route

STAFFORDSHIRE: Protest camp set up along HS2 route

Bluebell Woods Protection Camp. Photo by Staffordshire LDR Kerry Ashdown.

Campaigners battling to stop a high speed rail line being built through rural Staffordshire have set up a woodland camp along the planned route – and are encouraging local communities opposing the scheme to join forces.

Bluebell Woods Protection Camp was set up at Cash’s Pit, near Swynnerton, in the spring. Now it is home to protesters from nearby and further afield, who have constructed a living space in the woods, complete with sleeping quarters and a cooking area, a short walk from the A51.

The group has set up a Facebook group online too, where they share footage of their protests and invite people to get involved and visit the camp.

They are hosting a family open day on Sunday, December 12 from 1pm, where visitors will be able to gather around a campfire, make natural wreaths and hear from speakers about their campaigning experiences.

Ross Monaghan, 38, is originally from Lancashire. He said: “People have come from all over, while others are nomadic. Most of us have been involved in HS2 for a while and come from different campaigning places.

“The collective aim is to engage with local communities, slow down the work and stop damage to Staffordshire’s green areas. When you look at the damage done on Phase 1 we now know what is coming here.

“In the next few months we will see a lot of outreach events and people will be able to come here.”

Ross said he was angry to hear Prime Minister Boris Johnson talking about ending global deforestation at last month’s COP 26 climate summit while trees and forests on the HS2 route were being ripped up to make way for the track.

The announcement last month that the Government was scrapping the eastern leg of the high speed line, between the East Midlands and Leeds, has been welcomed by those opposing the western leg set to pass through Staffordshire on its way to Crewe.

Ross said: “When we are talking to people around here it has given the local communities hope that we could do something up here. When you look at how the climate has changed, and public opinion, that is why we are seeing a growing movement.”

HS2 Ltd, set up by the Government to develop, build and operate the high speed line, has said it will bring a number of benefits however, including a low-carbon option for long distance travel that emits 17 times less carbon than the equivalent domestic flight and 7 times less carbon than the equivalent car journey.

The HS2 website states: “Phase 2a unlocks more rail capacity on the West Coast mainline. It will carry six long distance high speed services per hour, freeing up the West Coast Mainline between Lichfield and Crewe.

“This could see services rise from hourly to half-hourly or better between Crewe and Stoke-on-Trent to Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield and Rugeley, as well as more services from Crewe to Runcorn and Liverpool, as well as via Crewe between North Wales, Chester and London.

“As part of the Phase 2a scheme 78 hectares of native broadleaved woodland will be planted. Over 13.5 hectares of existing ancient woodland will be boosted by freeing it of invasive species such as rhododendron and Japanese knotweed that harm and damage native trees and shrubs.

“In addition, the densest areas of trees will be thinned to help the strongest ones to grow faster, which helps to promote greater woodland diversity.”

Words: Kerry Ashdown, Local Democracy Reporter


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