Rehoming rare newts, planting over 860,000 plants and building 200 bat boxes: How Highways England is looking after the environment during the A14 upgrade

PUBLISHED: 13:17 03 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:17 03 September 2017

One of the ecologists at work releasing some of the water voles into their new habitat on the A14. Photo: JAMES WALKER

One of the ecologists at work releasing some of the water voles into their new habitat on the A14. Photo: JAMES WALKER

Archant

Moving protected species, creating new habitat the size of 269 rugby pitches and taking traffic for two and a half million tonnes of construction materials off the road are just some of the ways that a major project to upgrade the A14 in Cambridgeshire is caring for the environment.

Work on the A14 upgrade. Photo: JAMES WALKER Work on the A14 upgrade. Photo: JAMES WALKER

The biggest road project currently in construction in the UK is aiming to leave a positive footprint on the local environment once completed by the end of 2020.

The build’s initiatives include creating one square mile of new habitats for wildlife – including rare great crested newts and water voles - building 200 bat boxers, replanting trees and gathering and replanting rare wildflower seeds.

Patrick Howard, ecology lead for the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon project for Highways England, said: “An important part of any road construction project is the planning of environmental mitigation so that, by the time a project is completed, its footprint on the surrounding natural environment is as small as possible.

“Protecting the environment now and in the future is one of the golden threads that runs through all aspects of the scheme, from design to construction, project management to efficiency and delivering value for taxpayers’ money.

A lapwing - one of the wild bird species living alongside the A14. Photo: JAMES WALKER A lapwing - one of the wild bird species living alongside the A14. Photo: JAMES WALKER

“As well as leaving a positive legacy for local communities and businesses, we’re keen to create an environment where the local wildlife can flourish too. That’s why we’re creating new, connected habitats along the new road which will make it easier than currently for wildlife to move between areas.”

Workers are attempting to minimise the amount of fossil fuels used during the build by using energy from 100 per cent renewable sources, like wind and solar.

Facts and figures on the A14 build:

• Twice as many trees will be replanted which had to be felled once the project is built.

Work on the A14 upgrade. Photo: JAMES WALKER Work on the A14 upgrade. Photo: JAMES WALKER

• 866,000 plants from 50 different species will be replanted.

• Five barn owl boxes have been installed – and all five are currently being used for nesting.

• Once the scheme is complete, boxes for kestrels will be installed to nest around borrow pits and balancing ponds.

• Activity around five badger setts is being monitored along the route and the team is in the process of deciding how best to help the badgers relocate so they are not disturbed or endangered by the new route.

Work on the A14 upgrade. Photo: JAMES WALKER Work on the A14 upgrade. Photo: JAMES WALKER

• The Highways team is trapping great crested newts and relocating them at a safe location until the scheme is complete, and will create three new habitats for them when the scheme is closer to completion.

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