Campaigners have hit out at a judge’s decision to allow HS2 to continue work in an area of ancient woodland which they believe inspired legendary children’s author Roald Dahl.

Mark Kier brought the legal action against Natural England on behalf of the Jones’ Hill Wood Earth Protectors after HS2 was allowed to fell 0.7 hectares of land at Jones’ Hill Wood, near Wendover, as part of its construction works.

He said Natural England was wrong to grant a licence allowing clearance work to go ahead at the wood.

Another judge, Mrs Justice Lang, had imposed an injunction on April 16 temporarily barring HS2 from carrying out work while litigation continued.

Mr Kier said felling trees would affect rare barbastelle bat maternity roosts – places whether pregnant mothers gather to give births – and wanted a judge to give him the go-ahead to challenge Natural England’s decision in the High Court.

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But in what campaigners have dubbed a “shocking U-turn”, Mr Justice Holgate ruled against 59-year-old Mr Keir on April 26, saying none of the grounds Mr Keir had put forward were “arguable”.

A spokesman for the Jones’ Hill Wood Earth Protectors said: “Tragically, despite the wealth of evidence to support the need for wildlife protection at Jones Hill Wood, the weight of importance instead falls on how much will be lost financially to HS2 if there are further delays and targets are not met.

“After a long campaign to save this wood, supported by The Woodland Trust, Wildlife Trusts, Chiltern Conservation board, CPRE and thousands of locals, this ancient iconic site, home to the Fantastic Mr Fox and many rare species, has been given the go ahead to be destroyed.”

Mr Kier added: “This is a dismal decision, it allows HS2 to carry on with no care to our environment and show little regard to compensation.

“Jones Hill is lost, lost to hideous miserly mitigation. We must stop this happening elsewhere.”

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Mr Keir also said he feels that the judgment could set an “alarming precedent” for protected species and that the decision by Mr Justice Holgate had sent “shockwaves” through environmental communities fighting to protect woodlands.

But Leon Glenister, who represented Natural England at the appeal hearing last month, said there was “no serious issue to be tried”.

In an earlier blog post on the licensing, Natural England wrote: “Our assessment has concluded that the felling of 0.7 hectares of woodland at Jones Hill Wood will not be detrimental to the favourable conservation of the overall bat populations in this area.”