Green ‘river corridor’ on fast track with HS2
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