The Lichfield Branch of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) is celebrating a major victory in its campaign to protect the local canals from the worst effects of the High Speed Rail project, HS2.
The threat to the environment, tranquillity and heritage of the Trent & Mersey Canal around Woodend Lock above Fradley Junction has been lifted as the Government has accepted the alternative alignment proposed by IWA and the Canal & River Trust (CRT). The route for the Handsacre Link will not now cross the canal in two places with 3 bridges and massive embankments but will just miss the canal at the bend below Woodend Lock at or near ground level with greatly reduced visual and noise impacts.
The plan extract shows the previous route in black and the revised alignment in red.
Welcoming the decision, IWA Lichfield Branch Planning Officer, Phil Sharpe, who first proposed this solution nearly four years ago, paid tribute to the resolve of IWA’s trustees in commissioning the report from Hyder Consultancy that proved its feasibility, and to CRT for their essential support in what has proved to be an unbeatable partnership.
For the official IWA and CRT joint press release and more about IWA’s campaign see: https://www.waterways.org.uk/news/view?id=150&x=news/list
There will still be one rail bridge over the canal about 350 metres up from Shade House Lock for the Manchester Line spur and IWA will continue to press for appropriate design and full noise mitigation measures here. As the detailed plans for the new route have not yet been released it will be some time before any remaining impacts from temporary construction compounds etc. are known but IWA and CRT will continue to work together to minimise these and to avoid any significant stoppages.
Lichfield & Streethay.
As well as adopting the IWA/CRT route, the announcement on 1st October accepts the case for a lower alignment for the whole route around Lichfield as proposed by Staffordshire County and Lichfield District councils. This ties in well with the lower levels at Woodend and HS2 will pass under the A38, the South Staffordshire railway and the West Coast Main Line mostly in cuttings instead of on the high embankments previously planned, reducing noise and visual intrusion. A further benefit is that the massive materials stockpile area alongside the Coventry Canal between Streethay and Huddlesford, with a temporary rail siding bridge across the canal and scheduled to be in use for up to 6 years, should not now be needed which will further reduce the impacts on the canal system.
However, an adverse consequence of the lower alignment under the A38 is a new threat to the continued restoration of the Lichfield Canal at Cappers Lane. In the previous scheme HS2 passed over both the canal and the road on a high viaduct with the only concern being positioning the piers to avoid the canal and towpath. But with the lower alignment there is unlikely to be sufficient headroom at the canal crossing and Cappers Lane Bridge, only built in 2006 with a European grant to enable the canal to be restored, will certainly have to be demolished. With the skew crossing of the railway being on a rising grade, the canal will need to be diverted sideways to provide headroom and the road will also need to be diverted with a new canal bridge required. Lichfield Cruising Club were already affected with their slipway, car parking and some of their moorings needing relocating, but will now be further affected by the need for the canal and road diversions.
Although the details of this are still to be worked out, it is imperative that HS2 Ltd accept the principle that they will provide any necessary canal diversion and all the other works required to ensure through navigation at no extra cost to the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust. IWA will continue working closely with the Trust, with CRT and with the Cruising Club to secure the best overall solution.
So, as one battle is won, another is engaged. But with the reputation of IWA and the whole canal movement enhanced by this success, we expect now to be listened to more seriously and hope that a solution will be agreed this time in a lot less than four years !
A Richard Bird medal was presented to Phil Sharpe at IWA’s national AGM in Leek on 27th September.
IWA’s annual awards presentation recognises outstanding contributions made to the charitable work of the Association and to inland waterways.
Richard Bird Medals are awarded to members of the Association to recognise the significant benefit those members have brought to the Association over a sustained period.
Phil Sharpe joined IWA in 1967 and has at various times been Branch Chairman, Region Secretary, Region Chairman and a Trustee. He has been the Planning Officer for Lichfield Branch since 1993 and their Website Editor from 2010. In a long and active involvement with waterways restoration and planning, Phil played a leading role in the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust’s campaign for navigable crossings of the BNRR (now M6Toll). More recently, he has been instrumental in IWA’s campaign to alter the route of HS2 to protect the Trent & Mersey Canal at Wood End, the success of which was announced just 4 days after the medal presentation.
The picture shows Phil Sharpe receiving the Richard Bird medal from National Chairman Les Etheridge (Photo from Harry Arnold, Waterways Images).
The Parliamentary Select Committee considering the petitions against the High Speed Rail Bill (HS2 Phase 1) visited parts of Warwickshire and Staffordshire, including the Lichfield area, on 16 September.
This was the second of a series of site visits by the 6 MPs on the Select Committee, accompanied by officials, senior management of HS2 Ltd, local MPs, and representatives of the County and District councils.
IWA’s Navigation Committee Chairman, Gren Messham travelled with them all day on the bus giving opportunities to explain how the railway will impact the canals and their users and the various changes and mitigation measures needed.
The official party was met at Cappers Lane by representatives of Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust, Lichfield Cruising Club and IWA Lichfield Branch, plus a few HS2 protesters. As currently planned, the railway will cross the canal and the road at a skew angle directly above Cappers Lane Bridge on a very high viaduct. The main issues here include noise fencing, design, positioning of the viaduct piers clear of the canal and towpath, and funding for relocation of the slipway and some of the moorings to a new site near to Huddlesford Junction. After introductions and a summary of the impacts on the Cruising Club the party went up onto the bridge to get an overview of the site and an explanation of the ongoing restoration of the Lichfield Canal.
The Select Committee then visited the Streethay construction sidings site; a massive area of farmland extending to the Coventry Canal which will be used for many years as a railhead for importing and stockpiling the large amounts of spoil needed to construct the proposed embankments around Lichfield. Our issue here is adequate noise and visual screening from the canal which could be provided by grassed earth bunds using the topsoil stripped from the site and being stored for eventual replacement.
The committee also visited Wood End Lock above Fradley Junction and were met there by the Canal & River Trust, IWA Lichfield Branch Chairman Helen Whitehouse, local landowners and others. The MPs were able to see how attractive the Trent & Mersey Canal is here, and a boat going through the lock at just the right time illustrated how well used it is. Peter Walker, CRT Engineering Manager addressed the party, explaining that the massive intrusion of the planned multiple canal bridges and embankments on the canal environment, its Conservation Area and listed buildings could be avoided by adopting the IWA/CRT alternative alignment detailed in the Hyder report, whilst saving over £50m on construction costs. IWA had produced a handout brochure illustrating this which will help the MPs appreciate the other crossing points towards Fradley Junction which time unfortunately did not allow them to visit. The Technical Director of HS2 confirmed that, although it had been dismissed by a ‘previous’ Secretary of State, this was a feasible alternative that they were still considering.
(Report by Phil Sharpe, Planning Officer. Photo: WATERWAY IMAGES)
Coal carrying narrowboats have returned to the Ashby Canal to celebrate the start of another phase of its restoration.
At a special event at Snarestone organised by the Ashby Canal Association two traditional working boats laden with coal were dispatched south to tour the waterways with banners highlighting the restoration of the Ashby Canal.
Glyn Phillips’ Motor boat “Aquarius” and Roger Fuller’s Butty boat “Ilford” were both loaded with 18 tons of coal from the nearby Minorca surface mine, courtesy of UK Coal, which is also contributing £1,280,000 towards the canal restoration project. The first two instalments of this will enable another 400 metres of the canal to be restored towards Measham including replacement of the long demolished Bridge 62, with work due to start shortly.
At the event the Ashby Canal Association also presented a cheque for £20,000 to the Chairman of Leicestershire County Council towards the rebuilding of Bridge 62.
After welcoming speeches the local dignitaries and MP Andrew Bridgen entered into the joyful spirit of the occasion by shovelling some coal into a wheelbarrow to complete the loading of the boats. Their adept handling of the coal shovels indicated that the mining heritage of South Derbyshire is not yet forgotten!
Guests were able to see the section of canal already restored and displays of its history and plans for the future. Then it was time for the motor to take up the slack and set off towing the butty on running blocks in traditional style, recreating the spectacle of commercial coal carrying which ended in the early 1970’s on the Ashby Canal.
(Report and photos by Phil Sharpe)
The High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill and Environmental Statement (ES) for HS2 Phase 1 were published in late November and, after two extensions, the consultation period ends on 27 February. IWA Lichfield Branch responded in detail to the previous Draft ES & Design Refinement consultation in July 2013 (see 2013 News page for May) and the final ES includes some of the improvements that we requested.
At Curdworth on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal the crossing between Locks 5 & 6 now has ‘low level’ 2 metre high absorptive noise barriers on the parapet of the viaduct. There is also a reassurance that “any stoppage of the waterway, if required, would only be overnight”. However, the skew angle of the concrete viaduct and its adjoining embankment will have a major visual impact on the canal, as illustrated by a new photomontage. This peculiarly distorted viewpoint manages to look simultaneously up and down the lock flight and makes the straight viaduct look curved, but shows the full impact of the structure.
Before (2013) and After (2026) HS2 Phase 1 between Curdworth Locks 5 & 6
The previously proposed new access road on the offside of the canal to Marston Lane Bridge is replaced by upgrading the existing track to the east of the canal, with Marston Lane now being closed for a railhead and construction compound on the far side of the M42.
At Cappers Lane a temporary haul road crossing the restoration line of the Lichfield Canal has been removed and the high level viaduct passing directly above Cappers Lane Canal Bridge now has noise barriers. A proposed construction site and land take at Huddlesford Junction has also been dropped, although issues of access to the Lichfield Cruising Club moorings at Cappers Lane and the exact position of the viaduct piers remain to be resolved. The photomontage is a panoramic view making the straight and level viaduct look curved but gives an impression of its visual impact. Cappers Lane Bridge is just visible behind the wooden poles.
Before (2013) and After (2026) HS2 Phase 1 at Cappers Lane
On the Huddlesford to Streethay section of the Coventry Canal the temporary material stockpile area previously on both sides of the canal along 1.3 km and surrounding the new Kings Orchard Marina will now be only on the west side. However, there is no screening shown and IWA is asking for grassed earth bank baffle mounds and/or noise fencing of sufficient height to screen the adjacent earth moving activities for its operational period of five and a half years. This area includes a construction compound with rail sidings accessed by a new rail bridge over the canal alongside the South Staffordshire line
The Woodend to Fradley Junction section of the Trent & Mersey Canal is the area of greatest concern but the only concession is the general commitment that any stoppage of the waterway, if required, would only be overnight. The ES continues to regard boats as ‘transitory’ and therefore not affected by noise, despite the fact that boat occupiers are in general entitled by their licence to moor in any one place for up to 14 days, and it is not entirely clear from the plans whether the viaducts around Woodend include noise barriers. A photomontage, looking south, shows the different levels of two of the four proposed railway bridges over the canal, just off the picture to the right, with the Manchester spur on the left.
Before (2013) and After (2026) HS2 Phase 1 between Woodend and Fradley Junction
The Bill itself includes a section on Protective Provisions for the Canal & River Trust (CRT) which require amongst other things, in legal language, that plans and 28 days notice of works be given to CRT, that damage and pollution be avoided and interruptions to navigation be minimised. However, there is no mention here of navigation closures being restricted to overnight or “stoppage season” periods.
The Hyder Report
Concerned about the damage to the canal’s heritage and environment around Woodend and dissatisfied with HS2 Ltd’s tardy and dismissive response to our alternative route proposal, IWA and CRT jointly commissioned a study to outline its benefits. The final report from Hyder Consultancy provides horizontal and vertical alignment drawings and a detailed comparative environmental assessment along with estimates of the construction cost savings.
Whilst the Manchester line canal crossing can’t be avoided, the alternative alignment removes the need for the viaducts over the canal above and below Woodend Lock along with the Pyford Brook viaduct, intermediate embankments and the need for two temporary canal bridges during construction. Removing the constraints of the canal crossings allows the alignment to be lowered which reduces visual impact and noise transmission over a wide area. The report confirms our expectations that the route is technically feasible, with significantly reduced effects on the canal, and beneficial in all other respects with reduced environmental, landscape, visual, noise and social impacts as well as giving a significant cost saving of many £million.
IWA and CRT will both be submitting the Alternative Alignment Study with their formal responses to the Bill and ES consultation, and meetings are being arranged with HS2 and Government at high level to promote its adoption.
IWA members and supporters can assist either by responding to the consultation at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/hs2-phase-one-environmental-statement or by writing to their MP to ask them to support the IWA/CRT alternative.
The consultation on Phase 2 of the HS2 High Speed Rail project to Leeds and Manchester closed on 31st January and, as well as contributing to the national IWA response, Lichfield Branch has responded in detail for our area.
The consultation documents and other information can be seen at:
The main concerns are its effects on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Fradley Junction and on Great Haywood Marina, the Coventry Canal at Polesworth and the Ashby Canal restoration project at Measham. We have requested noise mitigation measures throughout, extended viaducts and possible realignments at Great Haywood and Polesworth, and additional canal bridges at Measham.
Download the full response from Lichfield Branch as a pdf file (220KB)