A SHAKE-UP of the Government’s plans for HS2 looks set to have a big impact on rural mid Cheshire communities.

A huge depot to store and maintain high-speed trains was already on the cards for Wimboldsley, but the Department for Transport (DfT) says this should now increase from 60 to 65 hectares in size so more trains can use it, meaning the network should be more reliable.

Meanwhile, a new 800m maintenance site is also being proposed to the south of the depot, and the number of high-speed tracks between Leighton and Stanthorne is to be doubled from the original plan of two to four.

The changes are part of plans to let more HS2 services stop at Crewe than in the original scheme thanks to a new ‘northern connection’, and they could lead to the creation of more jobs in the area.

HS2 Ltd says the overall project will lead to a ‘cleaner, greener transport network’, but with public consultation now underway, the Government admits its latest plans will cause additional harm to mid Cheshire’s countryside.

Winsford Guardian:

Above, the original plans for Leighton to Stanthorne including the Wimboldsley depot, and the new proposals below. Images: HS2 Ltd

Winsford Guardian:

New crossings will have to be made over the Shropshire Union Canal to accommodate the new plans, and according to the DfT’s own report, this will lead to the ‘temporary loss’ of deciduous woodland habitat.

The DfT also says users of the canal’s Middlewich Branch will have restricted views to enjoy as a result of the changes, while the additional operational noise would ‘change the sense of tranquillity associated with the canal’.

Widening the railway to four tracks and building the larger depot would also lead to a loss of additional farmland, while the bigger depot would also lead to the complete loss of Stove Room Wood in Wimboldsley, as well as some hedgerows.

It would also have an ‘adverse impact’ on the character of the Wimboldsley Plain, the Grade II-listed Lea Hall and cause a visual impact on Stanthorne Park Mews, the DfT adds.

However, the DfT does not expect a ‘significant change in the potential impacts’ on Wimboldsley Primary School, which has previously spoken out about the uncertainty it faces in future due to HS2.

The changes are being proposed following the Oakervee Review last year, which looked at ways to make cost savings on the project while maximising the potential of HS2 and the proposed east-west Northern Powerhouse railway.

Residents are being urged to consider the plans in full and have their say.

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Andrew Stephenson MP, HS2 minister, said: “Engaging with communities is central to delivering HS2 and Northern Powerhouse.

“We’re keen to hear from residents and businesses across Cheshire about the proposed design changes to the rolling stock depot and the new Crewe northern connection.

“Responses to this consultation will be invaluable as we accelerate preparations for the western leg of HS2 phase 2b, linking Crewe and Manchester, as part of our overall commitment to improving connectivity to the north as quickly as we can.”

The plans can be found online here.

An online consultation event for mid Cheshire residents will also take place next Monday, October 19, from noon to 1pm.

To register visit hs2.org.uk/events

For more information call the HS2 helpline on 08081 434 434.