Veteran British eco-activist "Swampy" evicted from high-speed rail project site

by Reuters
Tuesday, 8 December 2020 15:27 GMT

Environmentalist Daniel "Swampy" Hooper is attached to a structure built by protesters at the HS2 high-speed railway construction site in Denham, Britain, December 8, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

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Abseiling bailiffs removed climate activist "Swampy" from a bamboo tower in a river, intended to block construction of the HS2 high-speed train line

By Andrew R.C. Marshall

LONDON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Bailiffs abseiling from a crane removed a veteran British eco-activist known as "Swampy" from a shaky bamboo tower on Tuesday built to delay construction on a planned multi-billion pound high-speed train line.

Protesters erected the tower holding Dan Hooper, 47, better known by his nickname "Swampy", in a river in London to block a bridge for a road through a forest for the HS2 train project.

Two black-clad officials suspended from the crane attached a harness to Hooper then slowly lowered him to the River Colne in Denham Country Park, where he was led off by police.

Hooper told Reuters on Monday that HS2 was "an absolutely abysmal project causing deforestation across the country".

He first rose to prominence in 1996 after spending days in a tunnel system built to stop a planned road in western England.

He has been frequently arrested for environmental activism, including in October at a forest where protesters occupied treehouses to stop HS2 cutting down part of an ancient woodland.

The protest at Denham Country Park is one of several along HS2's proposed route, which protesters say is destroying what's left of England's ancient woodlands and their fragile ecosystems.

A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd, the government body behind the scheme, said the project had been "repeatedly and excessively targeted by political activists" whose "criminal activity" was a threat to the safety of the public and its workers.

The Woodland Trust, a conservation charity, calls HS2 "a grave threat to the UK's ancient woods, with 108 at risk of loss or damage."

But HS2 says only 0.29 square kilometres (0.11 square miles) of ancient woodland will be lost during the first phase. HS2 says it will reduce journey times between London and northern England and add capacity to Britain's crowded rail network.

Critics question whether HS2 is worth its ballooning price tag - now reported more than 100 billion pounds ($133 billion) - especially after a pandemic that might permanently change people's travel habits.

The first phase linking London and Birmingham is due to open between 2029 and 2033, according to HS2 Ltd. ($1 = 0.7497 pounds) (Reporting by Andrew RC Marshall; Editing by Andrew MacAskill/Guy Faulconbridge/Alexandra Hudson)

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