New HS2 landscape design will revive Midlands Heritage Hotspot

New landscape designs revealed by HS2 show how an area around the River Cole in Warwickshire, identified as a Heritage Hotspot, could be transformed for local people to enjoy.

Two HS2 viaducts will be constructed near Coleshill, and the landscape around them will create new public spaces with footpaths and cycleways allowing people to enjoy and better understand their local heritage. The area has a rich history, including a medieval deer park, the Tudor Coleshill Manor and the expansive Elizabethan garden which HS2 archaeologists recently uncovered.

Natural habitats will also be created for local wildlife, and access to water will create opportunities for fishing and walks around the river. The current viaduct designs allow for space to provide a ‘nature-led’ realignment of the river, increasing its biodiversity and to provide flood compensation areas. Habitats and ponds will create new homes for amphibians, dragonflies, otters, great crested newts, reptiles and badgers, which will all benefit from these new ecological features.

New integrated designs for the structures include reducing the height of the western viaduct from 10m to 4m, which results in a 36% reduction in materials being used and a 26% reduction in the viaduct’s carbon footprint. Changing the girder from concrete to steel also brings environmental benefits, including reducing the use of materials and the construction time, with 97% of the steel coming from recycled sources.

North of the viaducts, embankments around the existing Coleshill Manor will be planted with woodlands designed to complement existing vegetation. Accessible new green spaces will enrich the existing estate by taking inspiration from the parkland landscape setting of Coleshill Manor. The design will highlight the historical and ecological make-up of the site and links between Coleshill Manor and the river.

Further north, at Chattle Hill near the Water Orton viaducts, there are plans for a ‘blossom walk’ to link to a new community orchard and allotment areas, along with the planting of fruit trees and herbs for foraging.

HS2’s Head of Landscape Design, Christoph Brintrup, said:

“HS2’s enhancements to the integrated design of the viaducts and landscape in this area have made the most of the rich local history and biodiversity, creating the opportunity for fantastic new spaces for people and wildlife to enjoy. Our multi-functional design will enhance biodiversity, provide an inclusive, healthy and accessible landscape, and also help stitch the Delta Junction into its surrounding context. 

“Our design and construction approaches aim to achieve HS2’s wider environmental commitments to reduce our carbon footprint. Most of the steel used to construct the viaducts will come from recycled sources, and we’re also pleased that design improvements have resulted in a big reduction in materials used to construct the viaducts.”

The section of the HS2 route where the River Cole viaducts are located is known as the Delta Junction, a triangular section of line where the HS2 route curves west towards Birmingham and runs north towards Crewe and beyond. The River Cole West and River Cole East Viaducts curve away from the northbound route, bringing HS2 passengers into the heart of Birmingham at the city’s Curzon Street Station.

The Design Joint Venture working for Balfour Beatty VINCI JV (BBV) on these proposals consists of global consultancies Mott MacDonald and Systra together with architects Weston Williamson + Partners.

Nick McGough, BBV Design Joint Venture Lead Architect said:

“This is currently a complex area, with existing motorways and railway infrastructure isolating the site. Our design vision will use the Delta Junction as a catalyst to integrate HS2 into the landscape by creating a harmonic relationship with the railway, the site and wider landscape through local connectivity, habitat creation and biodiversity, landscape integration and flood risk mitigation.

“Close collaboration between multiple teams has been essential in developing designs, including the involvement of Ecologists, Landscape Architects, Engineers and Architects among others. This has resulted in developing the River Cole Viaducts so they sit lower in the landscape, utilising a weathering steel deck with longer spans and sculpting the piers to remove over 33% of the material from previous designs.

“In the past the river had been used for pleasure boating by the Edwardians. The arrival of HS2 means the area will once again promote travel across this landscape including the installation of new footpaths and cycle ways for local people to use.”

Local residents will have the opportunity to comment on the designs, with a virtual engagement event held in July to inform the local community of some key aspects of the designs and collect feedback:

  • River Cole Viaducts and Chattle Hill Structure: Have your sayThursday 8 July, 18.30 – 20.00 Sign up here

Another engagement webinar will focus on new designs for the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal Viaduct.

  • Birmingham and Fazeley Canal Viaduct: Have your sayTuesday 6 July 12.00 – 13.15 Sign up here

The design process for the River Cole Viaducts is still ongoing. Comments collected from HS2’s engagements will be shared with North Warwickshire Borough Council. All feedback will also be published on HS2’s website:

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