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Sat August 13 2022

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Cheshire wildlife haven at risk from HS2

5 Aug A small but valuable wildlife haven in Cheshire looks likely to be one of the victims of the £100bn HS2 high speed rail project.

Ancient woodland is under threat
Ancient woodland is under threat

Major utility works associated with HS2 are proposed to cut right through Sean Hawkins Nature Reserve, possibly leading to the complete loss of the nature reserve.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust has spent four years fighting the proposals and petitioning parliament, but to no avail.

Sean Hawkins Nature Reserve is a small but nature-rich site, two miles northwest of Tatton Park, managed by Cheshire Wildlife Trust. The meadow and adjacent ancient woodland lie within Millington Clough a tranquil valley carved out by Agden Brook.

However, the nature reserve, the woodland and much of the surrounding land is set to be compulsory purchased by HS2 Ltd, hte trust says.

Dr Rachel Giles, evidence & planning programme manager for Cheshire Wildlife Trust said: “It’s extremely sad to lose Sean Hawkins Meadow, a site that was donated to us for the benefit of nature. You only need look at Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve in Buckinghamshire to see what will happen to this wildlife stronghold when chainsaws and bulldozers move in. The injustice is only furthered through the poor deal nature is receiving from its loss.

“We’re not aware of any specific proposals to compensate for the loss of the nature reserve and just 1.5 ha of new plantation is proposed for the loss of the adjacent ancient woodland. There are no current plans to trap and relocate the water voles during the construction process. This is unacceptable and is in part due to HS2 failing to use the data we have provided them.

“It might be tempting to write this off as ‘just one error’, but we’re seeing this same story the entire length of the line. That’s a stretch of 330 miles where nature reserves, Local Wildlife Sites, ancient woodlands and hedgerows are falling foul of poor environmental data and a complete lack of recognition for the true damage of this project. The true loss to nature will be staggering even by conservative estimates. 

“To put it simply, nature is being short-changed on a national scale and it cannot afford to bear the cost of HS2 Ltd’s failings.”

An HS2 spokesperson said: “HS2 Ltd takes impacts on the environment during construction very seriously and has set a clear ambition for the extension of the line to Manchester to be the very first major infrastructure project to deliver a net gain in biodiversity.

“We are at the early stages in our designs for the railway as it travels though Cheshire. We are working closely with utilities companies to find diversions which will avoid impacts on ancient woodlands. We have set out the mitigation measures proposed to compensate for impacts to local wildlife and habitat sites in the environmental statement, and we engaged with national and local stakeholders, including Cheshire Wildlife Trust, on this information.”

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