Green ‘river cor­ri­dor’ on fast track with HS2

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

HS2 is a once-in-a-life­time in­vest­ment that will have a ma­jor im­pact on the West Mid­lands – and there is no rea­son why this can­not be used for the ben­e­fit of the en­vi­ron­ment.

HS2 Ltd, the com­pany build­ing the rail­way, is com­mit­ted to re­spect­ing the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment by re­plac­ing or en­hanc­ing wildlife habi­tats with a new ‘green cor­ri­dor’ along the route.

How­ever, the West Mid­lands Com­bined Au­thor­ity (WMCA) has bolder am­bi­tions for HS2: it wants to de­liver a pos­i­tive gain in bio­di­ver­sity. So we’ve cre­ated an en­vi­ron­men­tal and landscaping board which in­cludes HS2 and con­trac­tors Bal­four Beatty VINCI and Laing Mur­phy.

We in­vited the mem­bers to sub­mit schemes that would en­hance the en­vi­ron­ment in at least one of five cat­e­gories: rivers and wa­ter­ways, cre­at­ing new space, im­prov­ing corridors, green­ing ur­ban cen­tres and ed­u­ca­tion, skills and busi­ness.

In to­tal, 19 po­ten­tial projects were sub­mit­ted and six were iden­ti­fied as pri­or­ity schemes to be pro­gressed.

The first is the River Cole, a key cor­ri­dor link­ing the two ar­eas where the new HS2 sta­tions will be lo­cated: the Birm­ing­ham Cur­zon area and the Cen­tral Hub in Soli­hull.

The River Cole pro­gramme will cre­ate a green cor­ri­dor along the river through east Birm­ing­ham and north Soli­hull, lead­ing into north War­wick­shire.

We are now look­ing to cre­ate a Cole Val­ley Part­ner­ship to se­cure in­vest­ment and de­liver im­prove­ments that ben­e­fit peo­ple and wildlife.

Part of the plan is to sup­port lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to im­prove their nat­u­ral her­itage for them­selves through ac­tion projects.

The project aims to de­velop an ‘EcoPark’ – the Wildlife Trust’s en­vi­ron­ment cen­tre – as a hub for train­ing and ac­tiv­i­ties along the river.

The River Cole scheme will be­come the blue­print on how we can use HS2 to achieve much more than just mit­i­ga­tion for no net loss.

The first HS2 train may not ar­rive un­til 2026, but our jour­ney in cre­at­ing some­thing pos­i­tive for the West Mid­lands en­vi­ron­ment has al­ready started.

Will Martin, is the lead for en­vi­ron­men­tal and landscaping

on the West Mid­lands Com­bined Au­thor­ity’s HS2 Growth Strat­egy pro­gramme

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