Extensive environmental measures being implemented as part of the new A556 dual carriageway in Cheshire are already starting to bloom – well before the road is due to open.

Remarkable video footage released by Highways England and taken on Valentine’s Day shows how badgers, displaced by the Knutsford to Bowdon project, started to make a brand new, man-made sett their new home. 

And the success of the environmental work has now been confirmed with new footage of a mother outside the sett playing with 3 badger cubs – delighting everyone involved in the £192 million new road project.    Both clips are available to watch at on You Tube at the following links: www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwbYKF2QkXE and www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElXz9k9rPqk

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The infra-red, motion-sensor camera footage – with sound and captured on 14 February – shows a badger dragging nesting materials into the new sett, a network of 9 chambers with interconnecting tunnels constructed using plastic tubing and mounds of earth in a location just off the line of the new road north of Knutsford.     And the arrival of 3 new badger cubs last month (April) suggests the new family is there to stay.

Liam Fahey, environmental coordinator for Capita, the project’s designers, said:  “We’re absolutely delighted the badgers have adopted the new sett with so much enthusiasm.  

“We used a few tricks to entice them at the start – they really love peanut butter – and waited a while to be sure they’ve really settled in so the arrival of 3 cubs is the icing on the cake.”

The work on the sett has just been highly commended in Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) awards and Liam and the rest of the A556 project team are hoping the success of the man-made sett is a sign of things to come.

Paul Hampson, Highways England’s project manager for the A556 work, said: 

“We were determined to incorporate a large proportion of biodiversity mitigation and enhancements into this scheme, partly to meet legal obligations but mainly to meet our commitment to working as sustainably as possible.

“We’re all committed to minimising disturbance to the local wildlife during construction of the new road and several measures have been put in place to ensure the local environment is protected throughout.

“With the badgers moving in and other measures taking shape it’s already looking encouraging.”

Mitigation and improvement measures – in some cases provided even before any soil was dug or concrete poured – include:

  • replacement bat roosts – boxes already being populated by the flying mammals and 6 innovative bat ‘hop-overs’ being constructed using vegetation and fencing to guide bats safely over the road where it has crossed existing flight lines 
  • a network of 21 ponds to provide new habitats for the area’s population of great crested newts and aimed at boosting the local population as well as providing watering for small mammals such as water shrews
  • 3 new barn owl boxes which will managed by a local conservation group to help expand owl habitats in the area
  • mammal tunnels under the new road to provide safe crossings for badgers, hedgehogs, voles and also amphibian species like newts and frogs
  • an innovative ‘green bridge’ across the dual carriageway providing a route for bats, badgers and other animals with badgers in particular expected to use the bridge to interact with other outlier setts and reach foraging grounds.
  • landscape planting including new native woodlands and species-rich grassland to enhance existing habitats – with nesting and foraging birds among those benefitting

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Construction of the new A556 link road, between the M56 and the M6, started in November 2014 and is due for completion in spring next year. The scheme is part of a £15 billion government investment in motorways and major A roads by 2021 which is being delivered by Highways England as part of the Northern Powerhouse initiative.

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