Essay: A11 Fiveways to Thetford Improvement assessment

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  • A11 Fiveways to Thetford Improvement assessment
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Critical Evaluation of the Impact Identification Process and Mitigation Measures of the A11 Fiveways to Thetford Improvement.
 
European Environmental Impact Assessment

During last decades, environmental aspects started to be an essential part of planning process. Therefore, in 1985 the member states of European Union decided to concentrate on environmental issues in more accurate and scientific manner. With the support of several public and private projects in 1988 the environmental strategy was established (UK Government Web Archive., 2010). The actual EIA process is the part of European Law. The directive 85/337 is based upon European laws. The EIA is required only for the developments that come under schedule 1.

The A11 Fiveways to Thetford

The A11 is the major National Route that is connecting London, Cambridge and northern part of East Anglia. The development includes the 14.8 (approximately 9 mile) kilometres dualling of A11. The aims of this development were to reduce the traffic levels and enhance the capacity of the road. The figure 1 is illustrating the proposed scheme (Highways Agency, 2008a).

A11 Fiveways to Thetford Improvement Environmental Statement

The Environmental Statement (ES) of this particular development was produced in 2008 by Highways Agency. The document was concentrating on the evaluation of potential impacts of the proposed development on surrounding abiotic and biotic features. In additional, the ES suggests the mitigation of the effects and the future monitoring (Highways Agency, 2008a).

Surveys

In order to identify the potential impacts of the development, the ES must identify the surrounding habitats and species. For this development, the survey methodologies included desktop area study that covered 500m on either side of the main line of the Scheme, Phase 1 Habitat survey, Elveden Farm Track Surveys, Veteran Tree Survey, Phase 2 Surveys. The phase 2 surveys used National Vegetation Classification and DOMIN surveys . As a result of these surveys, it was documented that the scheme will be placed within the number of designated and protected areas that are classified of international and national importance.

1. Ecology and Nature Conservation

According to the Environmental Statement the scheme will influence breeding habitats of three species that are protected by EC Wild Birds Directive Annex including stone curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), woodlark (Lullula arborea) and nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus). The scheme will consequently affect the number of great crested newts and Barbastelle bats. It is clear that in addition to previously mentioned species other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians will decrease in numbers due to loss of several habitats. The animals that will possibly be affected are listed in Wildlife Countryside Act 1981, UK BAP species and Red Data Book species which means that mitigation measures are required to minimise the adverse effects. According to the ES the scheme will also affect the Protected Roadside Verges (PRVs). As it was documented, the several parts of Breckland Forest (SSSI) will be lost because of the construction works. Furthermore, the number of habitats at Thetford Forest Park County will be vanished. The construction process will also affect the surrounding ecological features as it will create air and water pollution because of transportation of dust and other sediments. It is recommended to carry out more detailed impact assessment as it does not actually present all possible risks. The list of the protected sites that will be affected are listed on the table 2.The ES used the matrix that was used to identify the significance of the effects that will be caused by the scheme that is shown in the table 1.

Table 2. Statutory Protected Sites that are going to be affected by the scheme.

Evaluation of surveys and mitigation measures

The mitigation measures are used in order to limit adverse effects of the construction on surrounding ecological features. During the establishment of mitigation measures , the scheme have considered the actual construction of the road and related processes as well as following legislation. All mitigation proposals were done with the support of key consultees, such as Natural England, RSPB, Suffolk and Norfolk Wildlife Trusts.

Protected habitats

In order to mitigate the loss of habitats, the Weeting Heath Extension proposal will be introduced, that will concentrate on the restoration of lost SSSI, SAC, SPA habitats (Highways Agency, 2008a). The Weeting Heath Extension will be carried out before the construction works. The issue of this recreational plan is that, there is no evidence if the same number of habitats will be recreated. Furthermore, the quality of newly introduced habitat cannot be at the same level as existing ones. Additionally, the existing landscape will be changed which will have a future impact on the connectivity of habitats. The future monitoring of recreated habitats should be considered by the scheme because it is not there now. For instance Robertson & Jefferson (2000) suggest to carry out regular surveys in future years after the recreational activities.

The protection of SSSI, SAC, SPA sites from emissions will be done through the preservation of the woodland shelter belt between the road and nature sites and installation of temporary polythene fencing (2m tall). It was documented that this type of mitigation is beneficial (Holman et. al. 2012), but on the other hand it will deteriorate the connectivity which will limit the movement of species between habitats. The mitigation of dust and other emissions did not consider any monitoring, whereas in the guidelines prepared by Holman et. al. (2012) suggesting carrying out on-site and off-site inspections on the daily basis and record levels of dust and promote the use of electric engines instead of petrol or diesel powered ones in order to reduce the pollution levels. In addition, it is suggested to check surfaces of several physical features such as cars window sills and record them.

Great crested newt (GCNs)

GCNs surveys were carried out using the English Nature guidance (2001), at 6 ponds in 2001, 2002 and 2005. Bottle trapping, eggs searching and torch survey were used to record the presence of GCNs. The ES does not mention how the habitat quality and suitability of the ponds were analyzed, whereas Natural England’s guidance (2015) suggests that the habitat suitability index should be used to assess the suitability of the habitat for GCNs. Furthermore, NE guidance (2015) suggests that weather condition should be considered during surveys, but this scheme did not take into account temperature, high winds and heavy rains. Following the guidelines (EN 2001), the ES includes the relocation of existing populations of great crested newts prior to construction works. The populations of this species are going to be placed to the fenced area of existing ponds. ES mentioned that the existing habitats will be improv
ed in accordance to EN guidance (2001), which is advantageous for existing populations of GCNs, but the additional creation of several smaller ponds rather than one large would be beneficial (Natural England,2015). The question is what will happen after the fencing will be removed after the completion of construction works? It is documented by (Kovar et al. (2009), that removal of fencing will decrease the number of individuals due to casualties caused by cars. Local authorities can come to agreement with developers about the future management and maintenance of habitats as well as monitoring and recording of existing individuals after the development will be completed.

Veteran trees

The Highway Agency used Veteran Tree survey Guidelines (EN1997) as well as British Standard (BS) 5837 surveys. The actions included visual assessment of the trees and identification to genus or species level. Every single tree was checked for a veteran status from previous historical data. As a result of surveys, it was found that the scheme has an influence on the veteran trees and the mitigation measure do not have to be proposed. The actual survey did not mentioned the assessment of dead woods within the site which underestimated the value of them. Furthermore, it is well documented that dead wood work as an important habitat for the number of organisms (Humphrey & Bailey, 2012).

Reptiles

The survey was done in accordance to Species Conservation Handbook (EN 1994) and involved the placement of refugia at the sites with minimum amount of light along edges of the road of A11 and several sites in Mildenhall Forest and Elveden bypass. At the end of surveys the ES recorded few reptiles including; Common Lizards, Grass Snakes and Adders.?????

Deer

The survey was undertaken by using crossing points and trails of deer as well as identification of droppings and footprints. In addition, few deers were recorded in road casualties. As a result, several types of deer were found including red, fallow, roe and muntjac. The deer has a medium importance status in Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (appendix 1) which result in the provision of certain level of protection. Deer was planned to be managed extensively but on the other this management is concentrating more on the safety of road users rather than conservation of deer.

The mitigation of impacts on deer include the creation of deer visibility zones that will allow road users and deer to see the potential risk of collision between each other. This will be done by setting up the verge 10m away from the road and plant vegetation beyond this point. The issue is that these visibility zones will be placed only at zones where there is a high activity of deer, but the rest of the areas will be left normal, which can result in the number of additional casualties. It is recommended by Putman et. Al. (2004), to create a specific speed limit within the areas of potential presence of deer. In addition, creation of chemical fences, roadside reflectors, tensile fences (Putman et. Al., 2004).

Water vole

The water vole surveys were carried out on 3 different years and during 1st and 3rd surveys there was an evidence of them. The evidence included vole burrows that were found in section 1 of the scheme. It was suggested that in following years there is a possibility for water voles to move into the area of the scheme.

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