Biodiversity work progressing as part of eco drive behind Cornwall’s major A30 road upgrade
National Highways’ A30 Chiverton to Carland Cross upgrade aims to leave a lasting legacy for Cornwall by protecting and enhancing the environment and ecology of the area.
The scheme will unlock one of the last major bottlenecks in the county by creating an 8.7-mile section of dual carriageway to help promote economic growth, improve journey times and increase safety.
The new route has also been designed to improve connectivity for wildlife, with a total of 33 multi-species crossing points being constructed, alongside the new junction structures, to enable the journeys of animals such as otters, badgers, bats and reptiles, and to allow them to access a wider area of habitat.
As construction progresses on the dualling scheme, National Highways and principal contractors Costain are predicting an approximate 20% net gain in biodiversity.
Initiatives to protect and improve biodiversity alongside the new route include the creation of eight miles of traditional Cornish hedging, as well as the restoration of existing hedging, and the relocation of reptiles and a section of priority heathland habitat near Carland Cross.
Following initial issues in hedging construction, exacerbated by a spell of severe winter weather, the building and rebuilding work is now well under way, while the heathland, relocated last autumn from one side of the new A30 to the other, is flourishing again with precious flora species providing a vital habitat for invertebrates, birds and bees.
Nick Simmonds-Screech, National Highways’ Project Director for the A30 Chiverton to Carland Cross scheme, said: “We’re really proud of the work we’re undertaking to protect the ecology and environment in the area, and the Cornish hedging and heathland relocation work are glowing examples of this.
“The design of the road has been carried out in the most sympathetic way for both local people, the travelling public, wildlife and the environment, and we’re currently forecasting a net gain of around 20% in biodiversity, in addition to the Cornish hedging, which sits outside this forecast.
“Construction of the hedging is being carried out using locally quarried stone, local labour and expertise, and following issues with some collapsed sections during the winter, we are progressing the building work with our contractors, including members of the Guild of Cornish Hedgers, and we’re looking forward to leave a lasting legacy that will benefit biodiversity in this location.”
As part of the heathland relocation, species-rich areas of heathland have been excavated and translocated across the road to a new area north of Carland Cross.
To ensure the preservation of native species such as adders, grass snakes, slow worms and common lizards, a team of nationally recognised environment consultants from Truro-based Spalding Associates undertook a painstaking operation to safely gather up the reptiles, before the heathland itself was cut into turfs and transferred across the road to a location close to a Site of Special Scientific Interest at Newlyn Downs.
The heathland contains precious flora species, including ling heather, dwarf gorse, and bristle bent grass that provide a vital habitat for invertebrates and ground nesting birds, such as the meadow pipit, and its preservation will maintain biodiversity in the area for many years to come
Tara McCracken, Environment Project Manager for Costain, said: “Along with the hedging, which provide habitats for all sorts of wildlife species, we’ll be providing real biodiversity benefits across the construction path.
“We’re undertaking an enormous amount of ecological and environmental mitigation, including the protection of bats, the provision of animal crossings, and our heathland work, and local specialists Cornwall Environmental Consultants and Spalding Associates have been hugely helpful in achieving this.”
The hedging is being constructed with locally quarried slate, supplied by Cornish Stone Products from the Tynes Quarry near St Teath – just 21 miles away – close to a mile has been completed this year, in addition to sections already installed, and construction will continue across the landscape after the new dual carriageway has been opened.
The slate hedges will be supplemented with additional grass and wildflower seeding, as part of the scheme’s landscaping work, and this will help to create habitats for numerous species, and increase biodiversity alongside the new route.
Leighton Paull, a Cornish hedging specialist and a member of the Guild of Cornish Hedgers, said: “National Highways have been liaising with the Guild, long before the start of construction, and it’s good to be part of a scheme creating seven new miles of hedging.
“We’ve been on site since earlier this year, helping to create new sections and rebuild others, and it’s progressing really well. One element I’m really pleased with is the utilisation of smaller quarried stones to create a Jack and Jill course on top – the herringbone effect is part of the traditional mid-Cornwall build style, and not only visually appealing, it provides further stability for the hedge long term.”
Further information on the scheme and its environmental mitigation and other details are available at www.nationalhighways.co.uk/a30chiverton.
The cost of developing the scheme is being partly funded by an £8 million contribution from the European Regional Development Fund, with an additional £12 million for the construction phase. The remainder of the cost of developing and delivering the scheme is being funded by central Government.