Reptiles moved to new habitats as part of Gloucestershire road upgrade

Radio tags were attached to the adders with glue, and these will stay on the adders until they shed their skin later on in the year

The joke has always posed the question why the chicken crossed the road.

But it was no joke for contractors working on National Highways’ A417 Missing Link upgrade in Gloucestershire when presented with the challenge of safely relocating reptiles while construction is under way.

Ecology teams working for principal contractors Kier were tasked with finding a way of moving traditional reptile habitats to make way for construction of the A417 between Gloucester and Swindon.

Earlier survey work identified a number of reptile populations – including adders, grass snakes, slow worms and common lizards on the path of the new route.

To ensure the preservation of the native species, a team of environment consultants, ecologists and one of the UK’s leading adder experts are undertaking a painstaking operation to safely gather up the reptiles.

Once gathered, radio-tags were attached to some of the adders with glue, and these will stay on the adders until they shed their skin later on in the year.

Adder tagging will provide interesting and much-needed data to see how far the individuals travel in their new locations

This will provide interesting and much needed data to see how far the individuals travel in their new locations as there is limited data on how these misunderstood reptiles move across sites and interact with a new environment.

Natasha James, Ecological Clerk of Works, said: “We’re undertaking an enormous amount of ecological and environmental work ahead of and during construction and local specialists have been hugely helpful in achieving this.

“We’ve been particularly diligent with the reptile translocation on the A417 Missing Link scheme – and it’s really pleasing to see that the creatures are settling into their homes.

“The work will maintain populations of protected species in the area and help to enhance biodiversity once the construction work is completed.”

Adders and other snakes are native species to the UK and are found at many sites across the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire area and can often be disturbed by mistake. At this time of year, it is worth considering keeping dogs on leads due to adders and also to avoid disturbing ground-nesting birds in the area.

Natasha added: “Adders are shy and secretive animals, enjoying basking in the sun at this time of year. They will only ever strike if they feel threatened. If you do come across an adder or any snake while walking in the area, always keep your distance, enjoy from afar and never attempt to pick it up.”

Michael Goddard, Project Director for the A417 scheme, said: “We’re really proud of the work we’re undertaking to protect the ecology and environment in the area, and the reptile relocation work is a glowing example of this.

“The design of the road has been carried out in the most sympathetic way for local people, the travelling public, wildlife and the environment.

“As a landscape-led scheme we have worked hard to enhance habitats in keeping with the sensitive Cotswolds environment and look forward to sharing more of our work as construction progresses.”

The £460 million scheme will help to eradicate the notorious bottleneck, unlock Gloucestershire’s potential for growth, support regional plans for more homes and jobs, and improve life for local communities

Extensive ecological surveys identified reptiles, badger, Roman snails and bat habitats across the new route. Mitigation is in place to protect all these species and enhance and improve new areas away from the newly constructed road.

As construction progresses, a green bridge will be built to ensure animals can cross the new road safety to maintain and improve habitat connectivity across the new road.

The proposed A417 Gloucester Way Green Bridge

Supporting the landscape vision of the scheme, National Highways will also continue to work with stakeholders to maximise environmental benefits, and the company’s plans include creating new habitats and habitat connections for native wildlife species, such as birds, bats, bees, and badgers.

As part of the major road upgrade, other biodiversity boosts will include:

  • 5 miles of drystone walls
  • 6 miles of hedgerow
  • 25ha native woodland
  • 3ha scrub
  • 6ha neutral grassland
  • 75ha calcareous grassland

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On an average day, this section of the A417 carries approximately 40,000 vehicles. Congestion can be frequent and unpredictable, and with motorists diverting onto local roads to avoid tailbacks, this causes difficulties for neighbouring communities.

The £460 million scheme, as well as preserving and enhancing the surrounding Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, will help to eradicate the notorious bottleneck, unlock Gloucestershire’s potential for growth, support regional plans for more homes and jobs, and improve life for local communities.

National Highways’ A417 Missing Link scheme includes:

  • 4 miles of new dual carriageway connecting the existing A417 Brockworth bypass with the existing A417 dual carriageway south of Cowley
  • the section to the west of the existing Air Balloon roundabout would follow the existing A417 corridor. However, the section to the south and east of the Air Balloon roundabout would be offline, away from the existing road corridor
  • a new junction at Shab Hill, providing a link from the A417 to the A436 towards Oxford and into Birdlip
  • a new junction near Cowley, replacing the existing Cowley roundabout
  • the existing A417 between the Air Balloon roundabout and the Cowley roundabout would be repurposed, converting some lengths of this existing road into a route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, while retaining other sections to maintain local access for residents

To find out more about the A417 Missing Link and for the latest scheme updates, visit https://nationalhighways.co.uk/our-roads/south-west/a417-missing-link/

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