Changes to the landscape east of HS2 near Radstone could have a beneficial effect on biodiversity. What will determine that is the precise nature of those changes, which are not clear. What we are left with then are the evident changes to the biodiversity of the 'improved' grasslands of the water meadow, the effects of which will again depend upon the scheme put in place to manage surface water from the HS2 route.
In terms of public rights of way, there are significant changes south of Radstone. The construction of an embankment across the valley, and a large cutting running southeast, require the diversion of the paths in that area. These will be re-routed along a new route created on the disused trackbed of the Great Central Mainline. Raised on an embankment, this will cross HS2 on a new overbridge.
South of Radstone, the small stream cuts through the overlying glacial geology and through the bands of limestone and sand below. The bottom of the valley consists of impermeable Whitby Mudstone Group clays. This is creates a wet water meadow – fed by groundwater from the permeable water-bearing strata above, and contained by the impermeable clays at the bottom.
These wet conditions render the land unsuitable for arable cultivation. Instead it retains its use for pasture, which in turn makes this a relatively small patch of higher biodiversity with a sea of arable monoculture. Changing some of that existing monoculture to a mixture of managed grassland and woodland might have a positive effect upon biodiverty. What will ultimately determine that is whether or not the land management scheme for the affected are seeks to create a managed area of higher ecological quality – which at the present time is not clear.
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On balance it is not possible to deny that the improvements to the east of HS2 at Radstone could have a positive effect on the level of biodiversity. However, the specifics of these changes are directly dependent both on the management of the new 'ecological' areas around the cutting and embankment, and in terms of the aquatic biodiversity, to the management of surface water runoff from the railway. Both these are subject to the organisation of future infrastructure maintenance and land management practices. Unfortunately the all-encompassing 'top-level' promises made thus far cannot define what that means at the 'bottom-level' locally.