HS2 phase 2 – high impact on the North’s natural heritage
Wednesday 30th January 2013
Following the Government’s announcement of its preferred route for the second phase of High Speed Rail 2, The Wildlife Trusts’ initial analysis shows that more than 200 important wildlife sites lie within a one kilometre corridor centred on the proposed route and could suffer as a result. Of these, at least 65 are at direct risk of impact from the line itself.
Among the special wild places that stand to be affected, several have high-level statutory protection including a National Nature Reserve and numerous nationally and internationally important sites. Ten Wildlife Trust reserves are amongst the areas that could be badly affected. The route also cuts through a number of areas identified for much-needed restoration of the natural environment such as the Staffordshire Washlands Living Landscape scheme.
The Wildlife Trusts will campaign to ensure excessive damage on the natural environment is avoided.
The Wildlife Trusts are pressing HS2 Ltd to make decisions based on the best available environmental evidence and to put forward a scheme which is in line with the Natural Environment White Paper’s ambition to restore our natural environment.
Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said:
“The Government is committed to continuing HS2 northwards whilst still awaiting the outcome of five Judicial Reviews being held into HS2 Phase One. Any scheme that goes ahead must avoid further erosion of England’s much depleted natural capital. This scheme is being driven forward in the name of progress, but what kind of progress is it that goes backwards on the protection and restoration of the natural environment on which we all depend?”
HS2 Phase Two
1The nine Wildlife Trusts affected by the proposed High Speed Rail phase two route are:
• Cheshire Wildlife Trust
• Derbyshire Wildlife Trust
• The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside
• Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust
• Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
• Sheffield Wildlife Trust
• Staffordshire Wildlife Trust
• Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
• Warwickshire Wildlife Trust
Examples of wild places which may be affected:
Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside:
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside has been dismayed by the news that an offshoot linking the line to the West Coast Mainline in Wigan, runs within metres of Lightshaw Meadows nature reserve, near Wigan, and near to the Abram Flash SSSI that forms part of it.
The proposed route runs along the Heybroook Corridor, in which that nature reserve lies; and it also crosses, and so further fragments, the historic Chat Moss area – passing Little Wooden Moss nature reserve and particularly close to Holcroft Moss SSSI, and not far from Risley Moss SSSI. In fact the route would split the two SSSIs which would prevent plans to join them and form a larger protected area in the future. The Heybrook Corridor and the historic Chat Moss area form major components of the Great Manchester Wetland Living Landscape area.
The proposed route through the city of Manchester has the potential to impact on internationally and nationally vulnerable species; most notably roosting bats and, perhaps, breeding sites of the rare Black Redstart.
The indicative line passes through two Nature Improvement Areas (NIA) – Government-identified areas for protection – in the Meres & Mosses (already designated by Defra) and a proposed NIA, Greater Manchester Wetlands. Two Cheshire Wildlife Trust Living Landscape schemes (areas identified for improved connectivity of wildlife habitats) will be affected across the Dane and Gowy/Mersey river basins. The Saltscape zone recently earmarked by Cheshire West & Chester Council for a £1m natural and cultural heritage investment will also be affected.
Holcroft Moss SSSI (the most intact lowland raised mire in the county) is a Cheshire WT reserve and part of Manchester Mosses Special Area of Conservation (a cross-border site with Greater Manchester). The route is expected to come well within the 100m ‘direct impact’ zone, including construction of an overpass to the adjacent M62. Yellowhammers – an IUCN Red List species in serious decline in the UK – feed and nest on the site. A range of plants including cottongrass are restricted to the specialist conditions on raised mires.
Several of the Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) in Cheshire which the route cuts through have components of ancient woodland (woodland at least 400 years old) such as Hancocks Bank and Leonards Wood LWS. Damage to and destruction of any woodland in the least wooded county in England (at just 6.4% woodland cover; source: Woodland Trust 2012) is a serious loss. The traditional English bluebell originates and thrives in ancient woodland and is already subject to a recovery project in the county.
Eleven Acre common LWS is an unimproved grassland which would be bisected by the indicative route. The site is home to numerous butterfly species; a fact of concern given the recent year-on-year declines in species including speckled wood (a 65% decline in 2012: Butterfly Conservation Trust). Silver Lane Ponds LWS, also in the direct impact zone, is home to long-eared owls and barn owls – the latter being an Amber List species in decline.
Sellers Wood SSSI, a Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust reserve is within the corridor.Bulwell Wood SSSI is right on the edge of the centre line.
Bogs Farm Quarry is a SSSI and a Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust reserve directly impacted by the centre line. The site is a complex mix of wet and dry, acidic and calcareous habitats.
Annesley Woodhouse Quarries SSSI is a Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust reserve and is less than 100m from the proposed centre line. Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust fought for 10 years to get this site designated as an amphibian SSSI and to protect it from landfill. The site is important for its calcareous grassland and for breeding and overwintering wetland birds. The adjacent land directly affected is an important site for birds. The proposed route runs straight through the magnesian limestone area of the County – which already has the most seriously threatened and fragmented groups of calcareous grassland Local Wildlife Sites.
The phase 2 proposals of HS2 require the creation of a new eastern section of high speed railway in Warwickshire, in addition to that already proposed across the county as part of phase 1. Initial assessment indicates that another 5 important wildlife sites are directly within the footprint with a further 7 at risk from indirect impacts. This raises the total number of wildlife sites in Warwickshire that could be directly or indirectly at risk from both phases of HS2 to 102.
For the eastern section of the route through Warwickshire, HS2 follows the M42 corridor closely – which appears to have acknowledged the principle of following existing transport corridors.
Three Wildlife Trust reserves may be affected: Woodhouse / Woodhouse Washlands, where the route goes along the eastern boundary and so direct impacts are expected, Water Haigh Woodland Park where the line goes straight through the middle, and Rothwell Country Park.
The expected programme for Phase Two is as follows:
• Early 2013 Government announce engagement programme on Phase Two preferred route
• Early 2014 Consultation on preferred route for Phase Two
• Late 2014 Government’s announcement of the chosen route for Phase Two