Ecology services for the A14 road improvement scheme Peter Trickett 10 August 2023

Ecology services for the A14 road improvement scheme

How Middlemarch provided pragmatic ecology services to keep a £1.5 billion road improvement scheme on track.

A14 road improvement scheme

The challenge: ecology services as part of a £1.5 billion road scheme

Time is money when you’re providing ecology services on a major project like the A14 Huntingdon to Cambridge improvement scheme, a joint venture between Skanska, Costain and Balfour Beatty. After all, the cost of having plant, equipment and people standing idle while work is interrupted can run into thousands of pounds every day.

Middlemarch was appointed as lead Ecological Consultant for the scheme in 2016. These works were associated with the improvement and widening of the existing A14 road corridor and also the construction of a new 12-mile section of three-lane carriageway. This formed part of a £1.5 billion upgrade to this section of the A14.

Road improvement scheme: our approach to ecology services

When providing ecology services on major projects such as a road improvement scheme, you have to strike the right balance between the financial impact of stopping work, alongside the needs of species and habitats that could potentially be affected by the work.

Our early engagement with the A14 improvement scheme started at the beginning of the construction phase. This meant we could plan for the delivery of various ecology services associated with the work, while also taking account of seasonal constraints, such as the best time to move a badger sett.

The scheme had a broad range of protected species requiring management in this way. From the very start, we managed a number of mitigation licences, including for great crested newts (GCN), bats, and water voles.

Many of our Middlemarch ecologists were listed as Accredited Agents on these licences, and on licences held by other contractors working on site. We hit the ground running, putting six ecologists on site each day so that a high volume of ecology services could be conducted in the appropriate survey windows.

Ecology services: habitat mitigation for protected species

Mitigation work associated with four GCN populations was an important element in our ecology services and began early in the project. We had up to six qualified ecologists on site each day in the initial stages – they supervised work to clear vegetation and erect herpetofauna exclusion fences, while conducting trapping and relocation when necessary.

We also provided ecology services for other protected species, including water voles, badgers, bats, reptiles and breeding birds. We trapped and relocated water voles at three locations, oversaw work to create new habitats and undertook measures to control mink, which are predators of voles.

In addition, other protected species work undertaken included breeding bird surveys, dormouse habitat assessments and tree-climbing assessments for bats. We also provided advice and support regarding fish removal and ecology services associated with the realignment of watercourses.

“We pride ourselves on providing pragmatic solutions, rather than being too rigid in our approach and creating unnecessary delays.”
Peter Trickett
Ecological Project Manager, Middlemarch

Supporting Natural England

As the scheme progressed, Middlemarch undertook further ecology services, such as numerous ecological surveys, which were carried out to provide data associated with Natural England licences and to undertake mitigation where needed.

This included inspecting bat roosts before the felling of trees and installing bat boxes to provide appropriate compensatory habitat.

Effective management during these activities ensured that all works adhered to licence conditions, and were in line with all relevant wildlife legislation and best practice guidelines.

Post-construction works: a continuing partnership

The construction phase of the scheme is almost complete, but we’ve been retained by the client to carry out ongoing ecology monitoring and advice.

Good populations of GCN have been maintained at all four locations compared to pre-construction levels, with a significant population present at Cambridge Crematorium.

During the monitoring of the bat boxes in 2020, four soprano pipistrelle bats were found in one of the six bat boxes during the inspections. The remaining five bat boxes all had signs of use by bats in the form of droppings. The droppings were fresh, indicating that the boxes were used within the most-recent bat activity season. The majority of the droppings resembled pipistrelle species, however one of the boxes had droppings resembling those of brown long-eared bats.

Peter Trickett, Ecological Project Manager, Middlemarch, said: “These are all positive signs that the ecology services we provided are having a positive impact on safeguarding nature for future generations, while still helping the client to meet the construction programme.

“At the peak of this scheme, the work was costing the client somewhere in the region of £1 million per day, so we had to respond quickly to their requests for ecology services. We pride ourselves on providing pragmatic solutions, rather than being too rigid in our approach and creating unnecessary delays.”

Penny Roberts, Skanska Environmental Manager, said: “The Middlemarch Environmental team provided ecological expertise across the entire A14 road scheme. The Integrated Delivery team, in which Skanska, Costain and Balfour Beatty worked collaboratively, found the advice and support Middlemarch provided during the construction of the scheme to be extremely valuable.

“The Middlemarch ecologists collaborated in a positive and professional manner with the Construction Delivery team, which helped to successfully deliver the completed scheme.”

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