Stop and Rethink HS2
HS2 is the proposed High Speed rail network for the UK - connecting London to Manchester and Leeds via Birmingham. Cheshire Wildlife Trust is highly concerned about the impact HS2 will have on the landscapes, wildlife and ecosystems along the proposed route. We are campaigning hard to ensure that a STOP is put to the current plans and that the Government RETHINKS HS2.
Wild spaces that are bigger, better and connected
Cheshire Wildlife Trust supports sustainable transport but the environmental damage HS2 is causing makes this project completely unsustainable. Nature is already in crisis and the current HS2 design will only make things worse by leaving nature smaller and more fragmented.
We believe it doesn’t have to be this way. For nature to thrive we know that nature must be bigger, better and more connected. With the right mitigation in place, HS2 could be an example of how big infrastructure projects can support nature’s recovery.
HS2 is coming...
We have taken your concerns to Parliament and Downing Street
‘’We will not let HS2 Ltd underestimate the damage the scheme will do to wildlife and we will take every opportunity to push for better outcomes for nature. HS2 now know we are prepared to take our concerns to the government if necessary.’
The story so far
January 2021: We lobbied Warrington South MP, Andy Carter, about the future of Phase 2b and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
December 2020: We responded to design changes to the Phase 2b route and send a copy to all MPs on the HS2 line in Cheshire and South Manchester.
September 2020: We voiced our concerns to Tatton MP, Esther McVey and Macclesfield MP, David Rutley.
February 2020: We took Altrincham MP, Sir Graham Brady, to Davenport Green Wood to show him the impact of HS2 in his constituency. Two weeks later, he speaks out in the House of Commons about the damage to this site.
February 2020: Chief Executive of Cheshire Wildlife Trust, Charlotte Harris, hand delivered the signatures of over 66,000 people, urging the Prime Minister to Stop and Rethink HS2.
January 2020: We launched our Stop and Rethink HS2 campaign urging the Prime Minister to rethink the overall design and plans for HS2. We send a copy of our new report to all MPs in Cheshire and South Manchester.
December 2019: We designated 12 new Local Wildlife Sites along the route of HS2, hopefully helping to secure better mitigation when they are impacted.
May 2019: We submitted another petition in relation to additional changes to the Phase 2a scheme which will particularly impact water voles. We took our concerns to the Houses of Parliament for the second time forcing HS2 to agree to better measures to help support the water vole population in south Cheshire.
December 2018: We responded to the draft Environmental Statement for Phase 2b of the scheme which will run north from Crewe. Our response can be found here.
July 2018: We took our concerns to the House of Commons and secured assurances from HS2 Ltd. that they will contribute to a landscape and environment fund. This money should secure approximately 35 hectares of habitat creation.
October 2017: We submitted a response in relation to HS2 Ltd.’s methodology and calculations for the amount of biodiversity that would truly be lost.
March 2017: We submitted our response to the route refinement consultation for Phase 2b and the supporting documents.
2015/16: Cheshire Wildlife Trust met four times with HS2 representatives to discuss the potential impacts of the scheme on our local wildlife. We encouraged HS2 Ltd. to make decisions based on the best available environmental evidence. We had input into the consultation into the Environmental Impact Assessment Scope and Methodology.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust's responses
What is proposed?
HS2 Phase 1 from London to the West Midlands is currently planned to be in operation by 2026. The government has committed to continue HS2 northwards, connecting Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds via two high speed lines running either side of the Pennines known as 'HS2 Phase 2'.
Phase 2 forms a ‘Y’ shape from the West Midlands up towards Manchester and the North West with proposed stations at Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly; and up towards Leeds and the North East with proposed stations in Leeds, the East Midlands and Sheffield.
It is anticipated that Phase 2 of HS2 will begin operating trains around 2033 as part of the integrated HS2 network and with the rest of the UK rail network. The Government wants part of Phase 2 – the route between the West Midlands and Crewe (Phase 2a) – to open in 2027, six years ahead of the rest of Phase 2, so that the North will realise ‘the benefits of HS2 to people and places sooner’. This will be subject to its own hybrid Bill, which the Government hopes to deposit in parliament in 2017. In November 2016 the government announced its preferred proposed route for Phase 2b which includes seven proposed changes from the original chosen route first identified in 2014.
HS2 Ltd is now developing the detailed design of HS2 Phases 2a and 2b and preparing the package of documents – including Environmental Statements – which will lead to formal approval by Parliament for the construction and operation of these sections of the new high speed rail network.
Impact of HS2 in numbers
HS2 Impacts in Cheshire region (including South Manchester and Warrington)
Total Area HS2 Phase 2a = 441 Ha
Total Area Phase 2b = 1259 Ha
Total Area HS2 = 1700Ha
2 Local Wildlife Sites direct hit on route
58.5 Ha of Local Wildlife Sites will be lost = 85 football pitches
6 Potential Local Wildlife Sites direct hit on route
3.4 Ha of Potential Local Wildlife Sites will be lost = 5 football pitches
*average football pitch = 1.7 Ha
30 Local Wildlife Sites direct hit on route (including 7 ancient woodlands)
28 Ha of Local Wildlife Sites will be lost = 40 football pitches
15 Potential Local Wildlife Sites direct hit on route (including 1 ancient woodland)
10 Ha of Potential Local Wildlife Sites will be lost = 15 football pitches
Our concerns relating to Phase 2a of the scheme (West Midlands to Crewe)
The 5 mile section of HS2 Phase 2a that stretches northwards from the Cheshire/Staffordshire boundary up to Crewe is, in parts, significantly wider than much of the route due to two additional spurs which will run parallel to the HS2 mainline. Worryingly, the section which passes through the ecologically sensitive Meres and Mosses Nature Improvement Area, is almost half a mile (750 metres) wide including the associated earthworks. The area is also a Local Wildlife Site designated for declining farmland birds such as the yellow wagtail as well as important populations of bats. Red listed yellow wagtail is a rapidly declining species, and this one site represents one of just 12 known breeding sites in the county and possibly the only population in South East Cheshire.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust have looked at the proposed mitigation in detail and have concluded that there is a failure to include measures to mitigate or compensate for the loss of nesting, roosting and foraging habitat for farmland birds and inadequate measures to compensate for the loss of bat foraging habitat at this site. We are also concerned about the impact on water voles. This species has suffered a massive 81% decline in Cheshire in the past 20 years and HS2 is set to directly impact one of the last remaining populations in Cheshire. This could bring about the extinction of the local population, just one of four remaining populations in the county.
More widely there is a massive shortfall in the amount of compensatory habitat provided in south Cheshire. This is contrary to HS2 Ltd’s commitment to ‘developing an exemplar project, and to limiting negative impacts through design, mitigation and by challenging industry standards whilst seeking environmental enhancements’.
HS2 have committed to achieving no net loss of biodiversity at a route-wide level but the losses of wildlife habitat in Cheshire are not being compensated for locally and will happen elsewhere, meaning the knock-on effects on the species that depend on these habitats will be enormous.
In July 2018 our appearance at the House of Commons Select Committee for HS2 helped to secure a large lump sum for an environment and landscape fund. The money is to help mitigate the impacts to the Local Wildlife Site and is enough to fund the creation of approximately 35 hectares of new habitat. Since 2018 changes to the scheme have been announced which will mean further losses of habitat on the Local Wildlife Site, as well as additional losses of wildflower grassland and woodland. CWT has submitted a second petition to the HS2 select committee, securing the right to present evidence at the House of Commons.
Our concerns relating to Phase 2b of the scheme (Crewe to Manchester)
The Cheshire Wildlife Trust have submitted a consultation response to HS2’s proposals to extend the track from Crewe to Manchester and Warrington. We highlighted that the scheme will result in unacceptable losses of wildlife in the Cheshire region, carving up valuable areas of irreplaceable ancient woodlands, felling ancient trees and destroying 216 ponds. Many of the species that will be impacted have already suffered shocking declines in recent years and Phase 2b of HS2 will only exacerbate this.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust are particularly concerned that the amount of compensatory habitat proposed is a fraction of what is actually needed if ‘no net loss of biodiversity’ is to be achieved – a claim made by HS2 in their Environmental Policy.
The knock-on effects for species such as bats, birds, water voles, brown hares, common lizards and grass snakes will be significant if not enough new habitat is created. By destroying the habitats these species feed and breed in High Speed Rail may result in the loss of vulnerable species from certain areas of the region. More needs to be done to prevent this scenario and the Cheshire Wildlife Trust will campaign to ensure that a stop is put to the current plans and urge the Government to rethink the design of the scheme.