A14 scheme 'to have positive biodiversity impact'

Highways England’s A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon scheme is predicted to add to the amount and quality of habitat for wildlife, according to a new report.

The £1.5bn scheme, a joint venture between Costain, Skanska and Balfour Beatty (the A14 Integrated Delivery Team), opened to drivers ahead of schedule last May 2020.

Using Natural England’s Biodiversity Metric, environmental experts within the Integrated Delivery Team predicted that the scheme will result in a net 11.5% increase in biodiversity units. A biodiversity unit represents the distinctiveness, condition, and size of a habitat, which can help assess whether a project results in a loss or positive gain of habitats and wildlife.

Across the length of the scheme, more than a square mile of new habitat was created for wildlife, including landscaping roadside verges and transforming borrow pits into a mixture of woodland, grassland, wetland, and open water habitat.

The team also planted 860,000 trees, put up 360 bat boxes, 90 bird boxes, 24 swift boxes, 22 barn owl boxes and 24 kestrel boxes.

The scheme constructed 24 wildlife tunnels, giving animals such as otters and water voles a safe place to cross the new road. Animals are directed away from the road to the tunnels with directional planting.

Laura Hampshire, Highways England senior project manager, said: ‘We designed the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme in a way that would reduce the impact on the surrounding landscape and wildlife. Our ambition from the beginning was to have a positive impact on local wildlife and the places they call home.

‘We’re extremely happy that our work has been recognised by environment experts, who agree that our project is predicted to have a positive impact in creating homes for wildlife.’ Costain said its environmental experts managed the planting of more than 40 different native tree and shrub species, almost 25 miles of hedgerow and 220 hectares of habitats, including native woodland and shrubs.

It acknowledged that it will take about 15 years for the planting to look as it does in the flythrough video, but said wildlife has already started to use what has been provided, so as the planting matures this will encourage more into the area.

Group environment manager Geraint Rowland said: ‘In 2019, we achieved our Climate Change Action Plan target for all contracts to measure their biodiversity impacts using a no-net loss calculation. In 2020 we further developed this important element of our action plan by including natural capital, biodiversity mapping, and GIS measurement for all relevant contracts, using our leading edge digital technology solutions.

‘By 2030 our ambition is for all contracts to achieve a predicted net positive biodiversity impact and increased natural capital value, as the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme has done.’

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