Strategic road improvement in Cambridgeshire

Ecological Impact Assessment for A14 Road Improvement, Cambridgeshire

Client: Atkins Ltd/Cambridgeshire County Council/Highways Agency

Objective: To conduct surveys as part of impact assessment for major road scheme

Background

The proposed A14 toll road and A14 road improvement scheme between Cambridge and Huntingdon was first considered in 2010 and then again in 2013, in a bid to unlock jobs, housing and growth in the region, as well as providing key relief for a major freight route. The Highways Agency is currently working towards the submission of an application for Development Consent to the Planning Inspectorate following a six-month consultation exercise. This 1.9bn scheme will take many years to materialise.

The scheme includes provision of new dual carriageway to the west of Cambridge, widening of the existing A14 between Fen Drayton and Fen Ditton, as well as localised new minor road construction and improvements. The scheme was planned to bisect Buckden Pits County Wildlife Site.

The task

The Ecology Consultancy East Anglia office undertook a range of ecological surveys as part of the ecological impact assessment for this nationally important scheme, including surveys for wintering and breeding birds, great crested newts and bats.

A combination of survey techniques using the latest advances in detection equipment were used to establish the importance of the area for bats over the summer. Manual transects and static monitoring points along likely commuting routes, coupled with detailed building and trees assessments, were employed. Climb-and-inspect tree surveys and roost emergence and re-entry surveys were also planned.

Wintering bird surveys, comprising both daytime and night visits using night-vision equipment, focused on wintering wading species such as golden plover and lapwing. Wildfowl, raptors and barn owl, all species of principal concern and most likely to be impacted by the construction of a new dual carriageway, were also recorded along with other notable species such as bittern. The night surveys helped identify sites used by roosting birds.

The outcome

Our work highlighted the presence of European and nationally protected species, including bats, birds and great crested newt, identified key sites for birds and bats within the scheme footprint and provided detailed baseline conditions to enable a comprehensive Ecological Impact Assessment to determine the likely effects of the scheme. Despite the huge volume of data generated in a relatively short timescale we were able to deliver the required output to the agreed deadlines.

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