Mon, 14 Sept 2020
WEST Berkshire councillor and environmental activist Steve Masters said he is "willing to be arrested and ultimately imprisoned" as he continues his fight against the HS2 project.
Mr Masters is one of a group of 15 protesters who are currently blocking two entrances to the HS2 South Portal Chilterns tunnel site, the biggest construction site on the project.
The site at Chalfont Lane, between junctions 16 and 17 on the M25, is where two giant tunnel boring machines will be ‘launched’ early next year to dig the 10-mile-long Chiltern tunnel to near South Heath, Buckinghamshire.
Around 5.30am today the group arrived to blockade the site in order to highlight the impacts this particular part of the project will have on the Chilterns, a large part of which is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
In order to delay the start of work this week and draw attention to the imminent and serious threat caused by this site, six members of the group have locked their arms in to devices made of steel and concrete, often referred to as lock-ons.
They have vowed to stay as long as possible.
Mr Masters has, for the last nine weeks, been living in a treehouse in Jones Hill Wood, Aylesbury Vale – one of the many ancient woodlands that will be destroyed to make way for HS2.
The wood is said to have inspired Roald Dahl to write the much-loved classic Fantastic Mr Fox.
Mr Masters said: “As an elected official I have a responsibility not only to my ward residents in Newbury Speen, but also to campaign against wider social, economic and environmental issues that impact everyone.
“HS2 is a project that impacts us all, the grotesque cost will be felt for years to come, at the expense of essential services such as the NHS and adult social care.
“It will impact our natural world, destroying large swathes of our biodiversity and it will also fail to be carbon neutral for over 100 years.
“It is a monumental white elephant that I am duty-bound to challenge.
“I am therefore willing to be arrested and ultimately imprisoned to draw this disaster to the wider public’s attention.”
The South Portal Chalfont Lane site will be the biggest construction site on the project.
From here, one team will launch the tunnels northwards, while another heads towards London on the adjacent Colne Valley Viaduct.
Two tunnel boring machines – currently being manufactured in Germany – will dig the 10-mile-long Chiltern tunnels and will launch from this site just inside the M25 motoroway, not far from Gerrards Cross.
The ‘twin bore’ Chiltern tunnels will be the longest and deepest tunnel bores on route, with separate northbound and southbound tunnels and five ventilation shafts.
This aspect of boring through the Chilterns is of particular concern to the Stop HS2 campaigners as it has a unique geology of interwoven lattice chalk aquifers that cannot be found anywhere else.
Campaigners say HS2 planned works in this area are going to destroy this geology and landscape, and associated test drilling in the Chilterns has already caused clouding of lakes and streams as previously addressed in concerns from groups including The Ends Report who in 2019 stated publicly: “A new threat emerged, and that is the risk posed to water supplies and chalk streams as a result of the 13.5km tunnel that will be bored through chalk in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
"Conservationists say they have three main concerns. The first is that the estimated 6-10m litres of water – needed every day to facilitate the drilling – will bleed the already depleted aquifers dry, and result in further damage to the region’s chalk streams.”
While HS2s say this mitigation is the clean, green and unseen option, campaigners are fighting back as they claim that HS2 is opening up sites across the line, clearing delicate habitats and scaring the landscape in order to facilitate the construction of the vent shafts and tunnel work sites.