HS2: Staffordshire Wildlife Trust calls for rethink of Birmingham to Crewe route after eastern leg scrapped

HS2: Staffordshire Wildlife Trust calls for rethink of Birmingham to Crewe route after eastern leg scrapped

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust (SWT) is calling for rethink of HS2’s phase 2 route as it’s emerged that the eastern leg will no longer be built.

Ever since HS2 plans were proposed for the line to cut through Staffordshire, the Trust has actively opposed them and campaigned to highlight the threats to important wildlife along its route.

The news that the eastern leg of the route will no longer be built is welcomed. This section of the line would have impacted on Kettlebrook Local Nature Reserve and Local Wildlife Site in Tamworth.

However, this section of the route had minimal impact on the county in comparison to the Phase 1 and Phase 2a routes, running through Lichfield, Stafford and Newcastle boroughs. The line cuts right through the heart of Staffordshire, causing irreparable damage to a number of the county’s precious wild places and habitats that support threatened wildlife.

Kate Dewey, SWT Senior Planning Officer, said: “While it’s great news for nature that the eastern leg has been scrapped, the Phase 2a route will still wreak havoc on our county’s precious wildlife.

“In Staffordshire over 10,000 acres of land, including irreplaceable habitats, will be destroyed by Phase 1 and 2 HS2 routes. It will obliterate veteran trees, ancient hedges and water-meadows. Some of these losses will even be for temporary works such as construction access. 

“Wildlife such as barn owl, lapwing and snipe are at risk. With 40 local wildlife sites affected in Staffordshire, including very rare inland saltmarsh and 20 ancient woodlands, we cannot under estimate the devastation that HS2 will cause here.”

Finner's Hill hedgerow

Finner's Hill hedgerow

Key habitat loss in Staffordshire includes:

Whitmore Wood, a Local Wildlife Site (county importance) and ancient woodland near Newcastle-under-Lyme. HS2 would cut through the woodland. If this destruction goes ahead on the site, it would currently be the single biggest loss of woodland on the entire HS2 scheme with the loss of over 13 acres (around half of the wood). The wood could be saved via tunnelling, but this option has so far been dismissed on the grounds of cost. 

  • Just north of Bishton (near Wolseley and Rugeley) an area covering approximately 3km of species-rich hedges will be destroyed to allow a temporary access route to be created to the lines construction site.
  • Further ancient species-rich hedgerows at Finner's Hill, Colton and Stockwell Heath, will also be lost by temporary road widening and HS2 cutting directly through them.

In 2019 The Wildlife Trusts, along with the Woodland Trust, RSPB and Chilterns Society, published an evidenced report, ‘What’s the damage?  Why HS2 will cost nature too much. It was the first, and only, comprehensive, whole-route review of HS2’s impact to be published. It highlighted the lack of detailed assessment at the time and showed HS2 Ltd’s proposed mitigation and compensation for nature was wholly inadequate. 

The Wildlife Trusts continue to call on HS2 Ltd to publish clear and detailed plans on how the scheme will meet HS2 Ltd’s obligations to achieve ‘no net loss’ of biodiversity along the whole route, and further, a net gain for wildlife and nature.  We also continue to ask HS2 Ltd and the Government to address delivery of remaining works in order to ensure further catastrophic failings can be avoided.