In 1995, Suffolk County Council Highways engaged Liz Lake Associates at the feasibility stage to consider the landscape and ecological implications of a number of alternative routes for the B1115, Stowmarket Relief Road, a key infrastructure project for the area.
The road was required to relieve the traffic that built up at the level crossing on the approach to Stowmarket from the north. Growth in railway traffic and new housing to the north of the town was also forecast to increase the congestion. Following scheme implementation, Liz Lake Associates was retained to monitor the establishment maintenance of new planting and other habitat creation.
Having worked through several route options, the line was fixed and successfully taken through Public Inquiry. Following planning consent, we have been involved in the detailed scheme design. Despite its relatively short length, the Relief Road proposals impacted significantly on a number of ecological and other environmental issues.
We worked with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Natural England and local naturalists to provide the optimal outcome in terms of protected species mitigation, habitat compensation and net biodiversity gain. We were able to negotiate with a local landowner to enable a new area of reed bed to be created in compensation for the loss of a small area of reed bed to the road scheme, and to provide alternative habitat for locally important populations of breeding and overwintering birds.
Specific measures were instigated to protect and/or translocate wildlife associated with the River Gipping, to be bridged in three places by the scheme. This included the installation of bat boxes under new river bridges and strategic lengths of otter fencing, to prevent otters straying onto the new road. There was also a need to ensure that there were no adverse effects on other protected species associated with the riparian habitat, including water voles, slow worms and grass snakes, along with breeding birds. Extensive areas of new species-rich grassland have been created on the new road embankments, along with new balancing pond provision and the planting of new woodland and river corridor communities, which have provided new habitat of potential value to reptiles, breeding birds and invertebrates.
The Relief Road was opened in 2010 but our involvement continues in a monitoring role, relating both to the installation of the landscape provision associated with the scheme and also ongoing monitoring of ecological issues and Japanese knotweed control measures. A final stage of scheme implementation involves the installation of a new cycle bridge over the River Gipping, which has included new river corridor planting and river bank protection measures.