Train ‘could damage wildlife’

An example of the high speed HS2 train which could tear up the Erewash Valley
An example of the high speed HS2 train which could tear up the Erewash Valley

CONSERVATIONISTS have expressed concern over the future of several Wigan wildlife havens if the planned HS2 rail link goes ahead.

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT) says a number of important habitats including mossland could be lost to the new high-speed train line, which would also run close to the edge of Lightshaw Meadows, more than half of which is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).

LWT spoke out after the proposed HS2 network, which could slash journey times between cities and see trains running at speeds of up to 200mph, moved a significant step closer as the Supreme Court dismissed the remaining challenges to the first phase of construction work.

Wildlife trusts across the country are extremely worried about the effect of the planned route on the country’s threatened animals and plants, saying more than 360 homes for nature are under threat in some way from the construction of the new line.

Paul Wilkinson, head of living landscape for the Wildlife Trusts, said: “We are hugely disappointed at today’s rejection by the Supreme Court of an appeal objecting to Government proposals for pushing through the HS2 national high-speed rail link.

“We have heard the argument for the economy, growth and jobs, but nothing on how HS2 will support nature’s recovery by ensuring there is more wildlife and not less by the time the project is complete.

“It must ensure that HS2 is a pioneering example of minimum damage and maximum repair for nature.

“To do this, Government must begin to communicate a compelling and ambitious vision for how HS2 will benefit nature and people’s connection to it, not just capacity, and jobs and journey times.”

Lightshaw Meadows is an 18-hectare site of wetland located in the larger Abram Flashes site, which has been created out of mining subsidence and provides homes for threatened species including waders, woodland birds, bats, water voles and invertebrates.

Analysis by the Wildlife Trusts suggests sites at risk of disappearing due to HS2 include four trust reserves, nine other SSSIs and more than 50 areas of ancient woodland.

The planned track will enter the borough via Culcheth before cutting across Lowton Common, where a new rolling stock maintenance depot is scheduled to be built, to meet the existing mainline near Bamfurlong.

Residents living near the proposed route have already registered strong objections to the positioning of the depot and the line’s proximity to popular beauty spot Pennington Flash Country Park and the historic 16th century Lightshaw Hall.

A public consultation on the routes north to Birmingham closes on January 31, with Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin expected to announce a final decision on the line towards the end of the year.