National Highways to plant over 160,000 trees alongside A14 in Cambridgeshire

National Highways have planned to plant more than 160,000 new trees this year alongside the route of the National Highways A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme.

The £1.5 billion A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon scheme included a major new bypass to the south of Huntingdon and upgrades to 21 miles of the A14, which has helped transform journeys in Cambridgeshire, shaving 20 minutes off journeys.

As a part of the project, 270 hectares of new habitat was created for wildlife, including the landscaping of roadside verges and transformation of borrow pits into a mixture of woodland, grassland, wetland and open water habitat.

Across the scheme, more than 860,000 trees were planted, which included 40 different native tree and shrub species, replacing the trees removed at a ratio of two to one.

However, it became apparent there was an unusually high failure rate among the planted trees.

National Highways has since conducted a survey, including analysing soil samples taken along the route, to better understand the reason behind the failure and to put a plan in place to correct the issue.

Using the learnings from the survey, National Highways has designed a revised replanting strategy, which includes a new preparation and planting aftercare programme.

Replanting is expected to begin in October, with the first batch of 162,000 trees already on order from a local nursery.

In addition, all replanting work will be subject to a 5-year establishment period.

Cllr Alex Beckett, chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s highways and transport committee, said: “The level of dieback that we saw on the original planting in some areas has been a major concern for residents and we have been working with National Highways to try to resolve this.

“We are pleased we now have a commitment from National Highways to replant 160,000 trees and to look after them for five years to ensure they become established.

“The county council will then take over the responsibility of 40,000 trees when the five-year establishment period ends.”

Cllr Edna Murphy, who represents Bar Hill on the council, added: “I submitted a motion to Full Council last year calling on the County Council to engage with National Highways to ensure that we received information about tree dieback and that solutions were found to address the causes of this disastrous loss.

“I’m pleased that National Highways has committed to delivering on this important biodiversity initiative.”

Martin Edwards, National Highways project manager, said: “We take our responsibility to the local environment seriously and with that in mind, we’re pleased to be in a position where we have a clear route ahead for the replanting of trees on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme.

“This approach will result in planting the optimum species of tree, in the right areas, with tree planting set to begin in October.”

Autumn is the perfect year to plant, as the soil is still warm from the summer sun and moist from the autumn rains.

The air temperature outside is cooler, so there’s no searing heat to scorch the plants.

The cooler temperatures mean the plant isn’t throwing all its energy into growth but is moving to a dormant state to survive for next year.

It will take about 15 years for the plants to mature and fully realise National Highways objectives of nature conservation and biodiversity, but it is expected that wildlife will begin using the new landscape much sooner than that.

Author: Alexander Gilham
Disclaimer: This article was not originally written by a member of the team.

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