COUNCIL chiefs have voted to petition the government over the impact of HS2 in the borough, with one councillor branding it a 'white elephant' which could have a ‘devastating impact’ on residents and businesses.

In January, the government introduced the High Speed Rail Bill to construct and maintain HS2 Phase 2b, which will run between Crewe and Manchester.

The planned route will head through parts of Cheshire West, traversing north from Walley’s Green, passing Middlewich and Winsford and crossing the River Dane.

The route will continue north towards Lostock Gralam, to cross over Puddlinglake Brook, the Trent and Mersey Canal, Gad Brook, Wade Brook, Peover Eye and Smoker Brook before continuing into the Pickmere to Agden and Hulseheath area.

According to a council report, the construction phase will include four borrow pits, a new train depot, viaducts and embankments, 'significant disruption' to highways and public rights of way, loss of natural habitat and severance of communities.

As a result, the council wants to petition the government for mitigation measures and compensation to help ease the project’s impact.

And the borough’s ruling cabinet has now agreed to a number of measures costing up to £385,000 to prepare and present a petition, to be funded from a reserve created from an underspend in 2021-22.

The council also wants to become a ‘qualifying authority’, which will effectively give it a seat at the table when it comes to discussing the plans. It will also look to appoint a Parliamentary agent and QC, as well as bring on external expertise to help its officers prepare evidence.

At the cabinet meeting, Saughall and Mollington councillor Simon Eardley, told members: “HS2 is a chalk and cheese project, it has clear positives and negatives for our borough, it is in all our interests for what we say on this project to recognise both sides of the coin, maximising the economic opportunity, but maximising through this process the mitigation we can achieve from those areas most keenly affected.”

Reading out a statement on behalf of Shakerley councillor Mark Stocks, Cllr Margaret Parker, said: “I welcome HS2 being back on the council agenda. It is critical the council understand the devastating impact this will have on communities and businesses in the area, particularly during the construction stage.

“The residents in my ward are heavily impacted by HS2 and I have strongly supported their opposition to this white elephant development from day one.”

The move will still have to be rubber-stamped at a meeting of full council in May and petitioning does not provide an opportunity to oppose the merits of HS2, but allows the council to seek to influence the proposals and/or to secure additional mitigations against any adverse impacts, before it becomes an Act of Parliament.

At the meeting, cabinet member Cllr Bob Cernik, added: “Unfortunately, we have to go through this process to get a seat at the table to argue our case.

"I can think of several better ways for the government to have put this bill forward,  but that’s water under the bridge.”