Kingskerswell bypass can't take shortcuts on wildlife protection
A major operation is under way to protect the extensive wildlife which lives in valleys being cut through to create the Westcountry's newest and long-awaited bypass.
Extensive ecological work is being carried out to protect badgers, otters, bats, newts and cirl bunting along the Kingskerswell bypass.
The work in the Edginswell and Aller valleys is part of the environmental mitigation and monitoring plan for the scheme.
Devon County Council says the work will either make life easier for the wildlife once the road is open, or move them to new, desirable locations.
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They say that some species will benefit from the scheme as the 5.5km dual carriageway was designed to minimise the impact on wildlife and plants, with a steering group established to agree the measures. Natural England and the Environment Agency have approved all the work.
Paul Ewings, chief engineer highways and transport, said a full environmental impact assessment was carried out when planning permission was applied for.
He said: "There's always damage, but the planning process requires we mitigate for impact and we are doing a great deal of work. We are making every effort to make up for what is affected."
Surveys were carried out at the different habitats to give an idea of what might be there and species surveys to identify what was there.
He added: "That looked for protected species and we found lots. We already knew about great crested newts at the Decoy end of the scheme, near the laundry site. When the laundry was built they did quite a bit of work to mitigate the impact on the newts and they have new ponds and measures like that there."
A special 'newt fence' was erected near Decoy for a temporary access track for work on culverts going under the railway.
After the fence was put in, the area was searched for 60 days to attempt to catch all the newts who were moved to the 'safe' side of the fence. When the work is completed, the fence will be removed and the newts can move back in.
Mr Ewings said: "We have got badgers located in various places.
"We have done full badger surveys, bait marking etc so we can see the extent of their territories.
"We also found two areas where otters operate, so the stream works have been specifically designed to accommodate them and we have otter fencing on the scheme to make sure we guide them to where they need to go.
"There's quite a bit of extra work on the streams where we are creating small diversions in some places, in other places additional flood channel works and additional culverts under the railway.
"In the streams we are being particularly careful about Atlantic salmon, for example in the Aller brook, because it's not that far from the River Teign. We have had to have special fisheries protection approval for our measures.
"A lot of the wildlife we are not moving, we are just improving the habitat. Where we are moving we make sure that what we put back in is very sensitive to the use by wildlife.
"There were bats which had previously roosted in the house at the junction of the Decoy Road, Hazelbank, in the past.
"They also roosted in various other properties around the area which we are demolishing which is why we have had to be so careful about the demolition.
"We have also built a new bat roost on the back of the Elmcroft Nursery property, put up 160 bat boxes which have been in places for a long time and some are occupied. There were seven different species, pipistrelle mainly, also long eared but more importantly lesser horseshoe bats, which are particularly protected."
Bats are reluctant to cross wide spaces, so in other areas additional measures will be put in place, such as tree planting and specially designed tunnels, to ensure bats continue to use all of their territories.
Mr Ewings said: "We found cirl bunting, two breeding areas, and the mitigation is to help the RSPB with the purchase of land at Labrador Bay reserve near Maidencombe where there are already cirl buntings.
"Those at Kingskerswell should be able to survive without material damage to most of their habitat. The efforts at Labrador Bay will more than make up for the damage to the small area of their habitat affected."
For slow worms and common lizard the contractor has worked with an ecologist, particularly in the area from Penn Inn to Aller, who set traps and removed any of the reptiles found and took them to suitable habitat elsewhere.
Mr Ewings said trees were being planted at the area which is being exchanged for the Kingskerswell Common.
He said: "We are replacing twice the area we are taking and planting it up."
In all some 70 mature trees are being lost and 5.5km of hedgerows, but mitigation measures are planned, including 15 hectares (ha) of new woodland and scrub, and one of the conditions of the scheme is ten-year management plans for certain areas to maximise wildlife.
Among the measures included in the road project are:
Bats: A total of 11ha of foraging habitat for lesser horseshoe bats will be lost. Temporary flight routes have been erected on all six key crossing points using netting.
Culvert underpasses will be created at Edginswell and Aller Junction, netting and strategic planting used to guide bats to culverts during road construction, lighting specified to ensure that impacts on foraging bats are minimised in areas next to the scheme.
Around 1.25ha of wetland habitat will be created in the Edginswell area. Some new woodland and hedges along the route will also provide foraging habitat.
Off-site management of hedges and farming land will be carried out. As well as the new purpose-built bat roost, and 160 bat houses, a lime kiln near Denbury is being restored in order to create a hibernation roost for lesser horseshoe and other bat species in the area, Manor Gardens Bridge is being modified to create roosting habitat.
An existing strip of vegetated land between the branch line railway and existing A380 Kingskerswell Road at the southern end of the scheme will be maintained as feeding habitat for bats.
Badgers: The main area of activity is between Aller and Kerswell Down, with a main sett located around 1km west of the scheme corridor.
Mitigation for loss of access to foraging habitat east of the scheme involves construction of two badger tunnels, plus barrier fencing, to ensure that animals can continue to access territory in pastures west of Aller Brook.
Newts: Great crested newts are in several ponds some 300m from the existing A380, in the grounds of CLS Laundry Services and adjacent allotments next to Ford Fields wildlife site.
It is one of only a very small number of sites in Devon and may be one of the most south-westerly populations in the UK.
Construction of a temporary access road around the CLS Laundry site and a temporary constructors' compound in Ford Fields for construction of the culvert at Keyberry Mill will affect less than 2ha of their habitat.
Fencing has been put in and newts trapped in accordance with strict licensing rules, then moved to a safe site before the work started.
Off-site compensation for any indirect impacts includes construction of a new pond at the adjacent allotment site and remedial work on one of the CLS ponds. Ford Fields wildlife site management improved.
Otters: They use Aller Brook and Edginswell Stream for hunting and possibly for breeding, and probably use small side tributaries for occasional foraging and movement between streams.
The main effect of the road could be more otters killed on roads if they had to avoid impassable culverts during periods of high water flow.
The main mitigation work is at Aller junction where a combination of chain-link fencing and a purpose designed otter tunnel will be constructed.
The loss of 3.12ha of species-rich marshy grassland and fen meadow, mainly at Edginswell County Wildlife Site, and 7.5ha of species-poor marshy grassland (2 ha of this is a temporary loss), some of which lies within Ford Fields County Wildlife Site.
The new wetland area at the southern end of the scheme will mitigate for this. It will also improve habitat for bats commuting toward Kingskerswell from the new bat culverts. The wetland will be owned and managed by Devon County Council as low-intensity, cattle-grazed wet pasture and scrub woodland.
Off-site mitigation includes sensitive management of 10ha of wetland and ditch habitat at Ford Fields, including 4ha which is species-rich wetland.
Approximately 5.5km of hedge will be lost to the scheme, as well as around 70 mature trees.
The scheme includes 2km of new hedgerow and 15ha of new woodland and scrub along the road as well as moving around 1km of existing species-rich hedge.
Off-site mitigation includes the sensitive management of 3.5kms of hedges in farmland surrounding Decoy Country Park and wildlife management of further hedges on a number of Devon County Council County Farms in the area.
Some 6.1ha of land used for crops will be lost to the scheme from the area around Elmcroft Nursery and within Yannon Lane Fields County Wildlife Site, southward as far as Kerswell Down.
Off-site compensation includes 9.25ha of arable land at Labrador Bay which will be managed to maximise its wildlife value. 2ha of arable near the scheme corridor will be managed to provide winter feeding habitat for cirl buntings.