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The wildlife haven cut in half by HS2; PLANNED RAIL LINE 'WILL DESTROY UP TO 80% OF CITY NATURE RESERVE'.

Byline: Jonathan Walker

Political Correspondent THIS is the Birmingham nature reserve which will be cut in two by the HS2 line.

Worried wildlife groups have given evidence to a House of Commons inquiry about the impacts of the planned rail line.

The UK's 47 wildlife trusts warned in a joint submission that HS2 "will damage and destroy more wildlife habitat and populations of wild species than will be replaced".

And the Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust highlighted devastating effects, including destroying 80 per cent of a key nature reserve.

The group highlighted the Park Hall Nature Reserve in the valley of the River Tame between Castle Vale and Castle Bromwich.

They said: "In Birmingham, the route and construction will destroy up to 80 per cent of Birmingham and the Black Country's Park Hall Nature Reserve. "This is a significant loss to the local community, to the Wildlife Trust, for the habitats and species and for Birmingham's ecological networks." Park Hall is a large area of former farmland and estate grounds on the eastern edge of Birmingham. The reserve has three ancient woodlands, while the grassland below contains various wetland habitats which follow the old line of the River Tame.

It is known for spring displays of bluebell, ramsons, wood anemone, yellow archangel and numerous other woodland flowers. In the pools and former farm ponds are many amphibians including great crestednewt, common toad and common frog breed.

Summer breeding birds include reed bunting, kingfisher, teal, mute swan and buzzard.

Meanwhile residents who fear plans for an HS2 rail link track and major junction near Lichfield may have been thrown a lifeline.

The reprieve came after the Government backed proposals to bring forward by six years the planned extension to Crewe of the high-speed rail link.

Previously, the plan was to end the new line north of Birmingham near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, and construct a link with the existing West Coast Main Line.

This link would have made a huge impact for an extended period - there was originally a 12-year gap between Phase 1 construction finishing and Phase 2 opening to passengers.

But the proposed change means the link with the West Coast Main Line is likely to be moved to Crewe, meaning much less work is required in Staffordshire.

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant said: "This might make a huge difference in Lichfield. At present Phase 1 ends in the Lichfield constituency and Phase 2 begins.

"This necessitates an additional new railway line joining the end of Phase 1 'temporarily' to the West Coast Mainline with a major junction north of the city of Lichfield.

"It is possible that this might not be necessary if the line is now to be built straight to Crewe. I am seeking to clarify this with the Department for Transport."

An HS2 spokesman said fuller details of the changed plans, including what they mean for Lichfield, would be published in the autumn.

'"This is a significant loss to the local community, to the Wildlife Trust, for the habitats and species and for Birmingham's ecological networks." BIRMINGHAM AND BLACK COUNTRY WILDLIFE TRUST
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 21, 2014
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