HS2 must leave a positive legacy for the landscape

The National Trust’s HS2 Project Team has recently submitted a response to plans for the HS2 railway in Staffordshire.

The HS2 Phase 2a (West Midlands to Crewe) Bill is currently in Parliament and awaiting Second Reading. Included with the Bill is the Environmental Statement which assesses the environmental impacts of constructing and operating the railway and provides mitigating measures to limit these impacts.

This phase of HS2 passes adjacent to the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and close to the Shugborough Estate, near Great Haywood in Staffordshire which the National Trust recently took over day to day management of from Staffordshire County Council. At its closest point the estate and important parkland is 335m away from the land required for the HS2 scheme.

Aerial view of Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire

Aerial view of Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire. The mysterious Shugborough Estate is the ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield. The fine Georgian mansion house, with magnificent views over riverside garden terraces, features stunning collections of porcelain. With rumoured connections to the Holy Grail, the 364-hectare (900-acre) classical landscape is peppered with unusual monuments.

The Grade I-listed Shugborough Hall was home to the Anson family from 1624 and with a legacy of exploration and innovation, has been described as ‘a perfect paradise’. Most recently it was home to Patrick Lichfield, 5th Earl and fashion photographer.

The Shugborough Estate is dotted with buildings, monuments and follies which formed some of the earliest examples of Greek Revival and Oriental influenced designs in the country. Now Grade I-listed, the Triumphal Arch stands at the highest point on the estate and is a great place to take in the views and surroundings.

We do not accept HS2 Ltd’s overall assessment in the Environmental Statement that there is no heritage impact on the park at Shugborough. Especially as HS2 Ltd have assessed specific impacts on Triumphal Arch, noise and visual impacts in the park, and impacts on both the landscape of the Shugborough Designed Landscape Character Area and the historic landscape of the Shugborough Park Historic Landscape Character Area.

We’ve put forward detailed mitigation proposals for this section of the route which seek to integrate the railway into the landscape as far as possible for people, places and wildlife. While some attempt has been made by HS2 Ltd to integrate the railway in a sympathetic way, the measures do not go far enough.

The Great Haywood Viaduct will be a highly visible alien feature in the landscape and so needs to be designed to a high quality to recede into the landscape as much as possible. The National Trust has put forward design principles for this major new piece of transport infrastructure, such as covering pier foundations in earth and vegetation and fixing masts behind the parapet wall to reduce visual impact, that should be adopted by HS2 Ltd.  We have also asked for an extension of the noise fence barrier along the south side of the Great Haywood viaduct until the track enters cutting to the north west of Shugborough Hall.

Triumphal Arch visualisation

Viewpoint from the Triumphal Arch at Shugborough showing the extent of the Great Haywood Viaduct.

Certainty also needs to be provided over arrangements for long-term maintenance and management of the new habitats which are to be created, and which will require appropriate agreements with sympathetic landowners. There needs to be better specification of target habitats, e.g. ‘lowland meadow Priority Habitat’ rather than ‘species-rich grassland’ and a tighter definition of ‘wetland habitat’ is required. Target habitats should be appropriate to the historic environment, as per the National Trust’s mitigation proposals for the Trent valley north of Shugborough.

We continue to work with key groups in the area such as Natural England, Historic England, Cannock Chase AONB and the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust to share information and with the aim of reaching consensus on what good mitigation looks like. Inspired by successful examples on Phase 1 of HS2 in the Chilterns and Colne Valley, establishing a Landscape Group for the Cannock Chase AONB area on a formal footing could assist the process of developing further mitigation/landscape integration and leave a positive legacy in this important landscape.

We have asked HS2 Ltd to offer commitments through the petitioning process that better deliver for the landscape here and to enable a mechanism, such as the Landscape Group, to see these commitments through.

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