The HS2 team will create 127 hectares of new habitats to lift the local natural environment.
It’s called The Colne Valley Western Slopes project. It will be a major contributor in meeting the HS2 carbon reduction targets by delivering ecological gain.
This scheme will reduce the carbon footprint by reducing road haulage and waste treatment activities. It will allow habitats to sequester carbon by replacing arable land with natural habitats.
Plant species and habitats are being selected to be resilient to a changing climate.
65,000 trees and shrubs of 32 species will be planted together with 3.5km of new hedgerows.
Around 90 hectares of calcareous grasslands which once thrived on the valley slopes will establish. Areas of historic woodland will get reinstated.
HS2 Benefits for local people and local wildlife
The HS2 side project, designed by Align, will provide wider health benefits for neighbouring communities. This will include the provision of new connected green spaces. There will also be 4.5km of new footpath, cycling and horse-riding routes.
Arable land needed for a major works compound to construct the Colne Valley Viaduct and Chilterns Tunnel will be transformed.
This is through the use of existing soils and the recycling of three million m3 of chalk taken from the tunnel excavation.
Reusing materials rather than transporting them away by road will reduce carbon output.
The material will be used to establish the distinctive chalk valley landscape. It’ll replicate natural drainage flows and establish the right growing conditions for calcareous grassland.
The neighbouring Chilterns AoNB is thought to support 700 hectares of chalk grassland.
This project will provide an opportunity to create one of the largest extents of such habitat.
HS2’s Environment Director Peter Miller said:
“This project forms a major part of HS2’s Green Corridor programme. It’ll help establish sustainable and biodiverse landscapes along the route of the new railway. These will contribute to HS2’s carbon reduction target.
“It demonstrates HS2’s approach to addressing issues surrounding climate change. It’s a great example of how good design and planning can mitigate the effects of climate change.”
Daniel Altier, Project Director from Align said:
“This project is designed to create a huge expanse of new grassland, connected woodland and wood pasture in the Colne Valley. It will help preserve declining or rare flora and fauna in the area, and provide a legacy for biodiversity.”
Simon Railton, Landscape Architecture lead from the LDA Design / Jacobs team (on behalf of Align-D) said:
“Our proposals are the result of a collaborative endeavour. It has compelling landscape and ecological objectives at its centre.
“We aim to create a landscape which is both rich in biodiversity and a place for people to connect with the natural environment.
“Our design team is passionate about achieving an enduring environmental legacy for the project. We want to play our part in addressing some the biggest issues of our time.”
HS2 team ready for preparation
Align is preparing the site for the launch of the two boring machines that will excavate the 16km Chiltern Tunnels.
Once launched, the site will receive a continuous supply of chalk until completion in 2024. Field trials are in preparation ahead of final seeding, and planting of trees and shrubs in 2025.
At peak, around 1,200 people will be employed in the design and construction of the Chiltern tunnels. There are 50 opportunities for apprentices.