Home Business and economy Kirkby parks to benefit from Headbolt Lane ‘biodiversity gain’
Ducks on the water

Kirkby parks to benefit from Headbolt Lane ‘biodiversity gain’

by Jonathan Kearney

Six public parks in Kirkby are to benefit from biodiversity improvements as a result of the Headbolt Lane Rail Station project.

Project partners involved in the delivery of the project are working with Mersey Rivers Trust to ensure that the new station provides a “net positive” biodiversity gain.

Knowsley Council has approved habitat works by the Rivers Trust at the six Council-managed sites in the area, with work scheduled to begin in February 2023.

The work is being commissioned by Network Rail and will be delivered by their appointed contractor Buckingham Group, and will help to improve habitats for birds, insects, fish, and mammals, improve water quality, and reduce flooding from the River Alt.  It will also help to control invasive non-native species.

The biodiversity improvements are scheduled to take place at the following locations in Kirkby:-

Mercer’s Dell – will undergo water quality improvement works through the creation of scrapes (shallows ponds) with reed planting to enable water filtration.  Additional proposals include hedgerow planting along the edge of the green space and the railway line, creating a green corridor linking the habitat at the new Headbolt Lane Station to Millbrook Park Millennium Green and beyond.

Mill Dam Park – creation of a large wetland habitat comprising a series of wooded islands surrounded by reed-beds and wet woodland.  A series of reedbeds will be created at the inflow and outflow and within the main pond, providing habitats for a variety of species present on site, including birds, amphibians, and mammals (including the water vole).  The reeds will also act as a filtration system improving water quality in Simonswood Brook.  A wetland scrape will be created and planted with reeds to provide additional habitat and flood water capacity.

Northwood Forest Hills – management of the wet woodland habitat and the re-landscaping of the pond to enhance the wetland habitat.  Additional measures will involve Himalayan Balsam control and re-seeding the area with a native wildflower mix to be managed as a meadow beneficial for invertebrates.

Millbrook Park Millennium Green – re-landscaping of four existing ponds which have begun to succeed and dry out.  Re-landscaping will allow the re-wetting of the site.

Eddie McArdle Playing Fields – wetland scrapes planted with common reed along Kirkby Brook.  This will enhance habitats, increase flood water attenuation, and help to improve water quality.  Additional works include the de-culvert of Kirkby Brook through the removal of a concrete half pipe and creation of natural banks suitable for water voles.

Saxon Green Public Open Space – the enhancement of 0.15 hectares of grassland through invasive non-native species control and wildflower and native grass planting.  Areas of grassland surrounding the trees will be allowed to re-wild and will be managed as a wildflower meadow to provide additional habitat and increase the amenity value of the park.  The existing pond will also undergo management.

Councillor Shelley Powell, Knowsley Council’s Communities and Neighbourhoods Cabinet Member, said: “The Council has been engaging with the Mersey Rivers Trust to deliver biodiversity improvements throughout the Borough.  The work taking place across a number of sites in Kirkby has the potential to deliver some fantastic environmental benefits in our green spaces.”

The Mersey Rivers Trust’s project timetable runs from February to Autumn 2023, dependant on flood permits, ecological mitigation, weather, and funding.

The works will achieve 26 biodiversity “net gain credits” to mitigate any environmental impact of the construction of the new Rail Station.

Councillor Tony Brennan, Knowsley Council’s Regeneration and Economic Development Cabinet Member, said: “Not only will the new Station be an important economic asset for the Borough and the town of Kirkby, helping support jobs and growth, it’s fantastic to see that it will also produce a biodiversity net gain as a result of the work delivered by the Mersey Rivers Trust.”

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is delivering the £80m Headbolt Lane Rail Station project, in partnership with Knowsley Council, Network Rail, Merseyrail, and Northern Rail.

The new Station is scheduled to open during the summer of 2023.  It will extend the Merseyrail network, which currently terminates at Kirkby, to a new location off Headbolt Lane.  This will improve transport links for the Northwood and Tower Hill areas of Kirkby as well as for Knowsley Business Park.

Northern Rail services from Manchester and Wigan will operate to and from the new three-platform Station at Headbolt Lane, which is also designed to support any future plans to build a new rail link to Skelmersdale.

You can find out more about the new Station in our Frequently Asked Questions.