Protecting threatened wildlife and wild places from HS2 (High Speed Rail)

Successive governments’ campaigns for HS2 stressed the benefits to business in both the North and South, but wildlife appeared to have been marginalised. HS2 remains committed to merely making things worse for wildlife, rather than making them better.

When the initial plans were announced, we were shocked to hear that the route to Wigan would cut straight though vital areas of mossland and affect threatened species like the willow tit and water vole. It was also proposed that the line would include a '24-7' floodlit marshalling yard alongside the Lightshaw Meadows nature reserve, managed by the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Greater Manchester and North Merseyside in partnership with Red Rose Forest.

Lightshaw Meadows is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), its nationally rare meadow grasslands home to rare and declining birds including the black-tailed godwit. The proposed marshalling yard is also not far from our Abram Flash nature reserve, another SSSI and a unique mosaic of mossland, fen and other wetland habitats linking Wigan Flashes to Lightshaw Meadows and, further along, Pennington Flashes, all part of the Wigan Greenheart.

Both locally and nationally, we asked Government to rethink their plans to offer more consideration for wildlife and its habitats.

What are the latest developments with HS2?

In November 2016, we were relieved to discover that the Department of Transport was consulting on withdrawing the marshalling yard proposal next to Lightshaw Meadows and Abram Flash SSSI. The consultation closed on 9 March 2017 and we responded with evidence supporting the proposed relocation. On 17 July 2017, the government accepted our and others’ arguments and relocated the proposed yard to a site near Crewe that has less impact on wildlife.

However, the 'Working Draft Environmental Statement' (ES) released in October 2018 shows a 'satellite construction compound' next to Abram Flash SSSI. This won’t be as permanent as the marshalling yard would have been, but its impacts would last for several years.

The proposed route through Wigan Borough still severs the east from the west of our Great Manchester Wetlands Living Landscape scheme – a locally designated Nature Improvement Area that is already split north from south by the M62 and the Liverpool to Manchester railway. It also destroys half of the ‘Ponds Near Lightshaw Lane’ Local Wildlife Site and divides what remains in two. The site is of regional importance for dragonflies, damselflies, birds and amphibians.

The confirmed route of the spur through the City of Manchester would fortunately tunnel under urban woodlands, some ancient and identified as Local Wildlife Sites, but would take a big chunk out of Davenport Green Wood, an irreplaceable ancient woodland just across the boundary in Trafford Borough.

Read about A Greener Vision for HS2 nationally, and how other local Wildlife Trusts are affected by HS2.