Well, you might be in lockdown and unable to go to work, go to a restaurant, change your books at the library or any of the things you normally do. But don’t worry, because in a wood near Kenilworth, HS2 contractors are just getting on with destroying ancient woodland as though nothing is happening.
On Tuesday afternoon an injunction came into force that gives HS2 the power to evict anybody taking action to protect the woodland. So immediately the contractors and bailiffs set about their work of installing fences across the public bridleway and clearing the ground. Never mind that there is a national emergency. Never mind that it’s nesting season (and any work on the trees is breaking environmental law). Never mind that, once this pandemic is over we might have decided that we actually quite like a slower pace of life and connecting with colleagues virtually, and that shaving fifteen minutes off the journey from London to Birmingham is not really what we are about any more. And never mind that, once we’ve added up the cost of the healthcare effort from Covid19, the fallout in the economy, and the rescue of industry, we won’t be able to afford this vanity project anyway. Work has to go on.
And the work is going on, yesterday and today, with no regard for the Government’s lockdown instructions, and no regard for the health and safety of the workforce. Those few protestors who remain in the vicinity are practising strict physical distancing procedures, but it’s clear from the video evidence that the contractors aren’t bothering. This is putting themselves and others at risk.
The fact is they are desperate to do the felling of Broadwells Wood, Cubbington Wood and Crackley Wood in April, because after that they will have to stop because of bat protection legislation. The fact that it is now more likely that the HS2 project will be mothballed for financial reasons means nothing to them. They are subcontractors who need to do their work or they won’t get paid. End of.
Unfortunately it may well be too late now to stop them. The ancient woods, which may have been around in Shakespeare’s youth and are part of the green landscape of the heart of England, will be gone. But on what planet is construction work ‘essential’ in the middle of a global pandemic? I think I know the answer. It’s a planet on which everything eventually falls victim to the hungry appetite of capital. Here it is taking place under cover of Covid19. The bald scars on England’s landscape will be testament to the fact that construction all too often means destruction.