July sees the completion of Contract 4 at Wichelstowe. Contract 4 included the construction of roads and associated structures between East Wichel and Mill Lane (including a section of the Croft Road to Hay Land Link Road, the Central Distributor Road and the bus and cycle STAr route), a 1km stretch of canal, amenity lakes and attenuation ponds, two wildlife ponds and a noise attenuation bund. It is a prime example of the successful delivery of green infrastructure, which has been carefully planned to maximise opportunities for biodiversity and the benefits are already being seen. Contract 4 also enhances the opportunities for people to gain access to nature through the improvement of existing bridleways and footpaths and also the provision of new footpaths around the lakes and alongside the canal.
Photo of the canal within the East Wichel development, where the northern bank provides access and the southern bank is designed for wildlife.
Ecosulis ecological consultants worked closely with Swindon Borough Council, WYG Trench Farrow and Arups Engineers and Landscape Architects in the detailed design process to ensure that the principles of the Nature Conservation Management Strategy (Ecosulis, 2005) developed at the outline planning stage were fully integrated into the reserved matters application and that opportunities for biodiversity were identified and maximised where possible. This included:
- Detailed design of the wildlife ponds with a specific focus on creating optimal conditions for amphibians including great crested newts
- Detailed design of the lakes and attenuation ponds to maximise opportunities for wildlife, including the planting species and design of floating islands
- Soft-engineering of the majority of the canal banks to maximise opportunities for water vole
- Ecological input into the landscaping proposals across the site to maximise the opportunities
- Sensitive lighting schemes to minimise impacts on bats, otter and other nocturnal species
- Wildlife protection fencing to protect Management Plan Areas and species from road traffic incidents on the new roads
"The Council are committed to protecting and enhancing the natural environment at Wichelstowe. The design of Contract 4 has supported this important objective and through the hard work, expertise and collaborative approach of Ecosulis and BAM Nuttall we were able to minimise the environmental and ecological impact of the works. The end result creates some exciting new habitats, especially in the areas surrounding the lakes, which will hopefully attract wildlife to the area. The associated footpaths and cycleways provide an opportunity for the new residents of Wichelstowe to enjoy high quality open space close to their homes." Wichelstowe Programme Manager, Swindon Borough Council
Ecosulis ecological consulting and countryside management teams were integral to facilitating the rapid mobilisation of the appointed contractor (BAM Nuttall) and in avoiding/minimising any potential delays that ecological receptors might otherwise have caused. This included measures such as:
- Great crested newt relocation exercise including temporary amphibian fencing, pitfall traps, vegetation clearance and Ecological Clerk of Works
- Off-site pond enhancement and supervision of on-site pond creation
- Water vole habitat enhancement and displacement along Wroughton Brook
- Indian balsam (Himalayan balsam) control along Wroughton Brook
- Tree felling and hedgerow removal
- Toolbox talks provided to the contractors, explaining the importance of the ecology on site and measures to be taken to avoid impacts and protect wildlife
- The implementation of an Ecological Permit to Work system to ensure appropriate control measures were implemented in sensitive areas
- Attendance at monthly project progress meetings
During construction great care was taken by BAM Nuttall (the contractors) to ensure that impacts on wildlife and the environment were minimised. The fact that otter and water vole signs on the stretch of Wroughton Brook within the Contract 4 boundary during the construction period were greater than ever previously recorded by Ecosulis is testament to the sensitive working practices employed by BAM Nuttall as is the successful breeding of waterfowl and other bird species on the site.
“The environmental management plan was developed by the team with clear direction from our colleagues at Ecosulis. During the construction phase they provided excellent advice and comment on our proposed methods and assisted in our liaison with the Environment Agency and other statutory bodies. They also provided clear and helpful tool box talks covering all aspects of the works in hand and were always available, even at short notice to assist our site teams execution of the works in sensitive areas” Agent, BAM Nuttall
Photo of one of the lakes created as part of Contract 4 at Wichelstowe with a more natural section of canal in the background. Landscaping to be completed.
Ecosulis will continue to be involved in providing support to Swindon Borough Council. A long-term control strategy is being implemented (and proving successful) in respect to Indian balsam and annual monitoring of the great crested newt and water vole populations on the site continue, which will inform future management. Swindon Commercial Services, the appointed landscaping contractors, will shortly be commencing the planting works associated with this contract such as the marginal planting of the water bodies and grass seeding with the tree and shrub planting proposed for this winter.