To the bat cave! National Highways helps support UK bat species along the A417 Missing Link


20 September 2023

Press Release

To the bat cave! National Highways helps support UK bat species along the A417 Missing Link

Converting a World War II bunker for wildlife is one of the innovative measures National Highways is taking to help support UK species of bats that have made their home in Gloucestershire.

Thanks to the government-owned company, the converted structure will be home to the Lesser Horseshoe, Brown Long Eared and other species of bats. 
National Highways is also installing bat boxes in suitable habitat across the scheme, which although not obvious to passing motorists, provide vital homes for the bats. 
Veteranisation techniques – where the decaying process is started in young trees - will also be used on trees to create potential roost opportunities that mimic crevices and roosting opportunities only found on older more mature trees. 
Three other bat structures will also be developed during the scheme, along with the planting of trees, hedges, woodland and grasslands to improve sustainability.
Celine Acard, Senior Project Manager for the A417, said: “We know how much people love the wildlife that makes its home alongside routes like the A417, and roads like this can often they can be oases for biodiversity. 
“When situated alongside linear infrastructure, such as A-roads, habitats can create crucial corridors for pollinating insects, birds and small mammals, enabling wildlife to permeate the wider landscape.
“It’s vitally important that we protect the surrounding countryside and wildlife that makes it home there when we build this transformative scheme - not only for this generation but for the many generations to come to enjoy.
“It’s also fascinating to see the wide variety of bats in this region, something we are determined to support as we move forward.”
Natasha James, Ecological Clerk of Works, added: “It is vitally important to preserve, protect and enhance the habitat of the wildlife within our site and our surroundings. 
“Bats will feed within the area around their roosts, which can be up to 10km or more depending on the species. It is therefore important that we provide habitat protection throughout our site as the bats fly between their roosts and feeding grounds. 
“It is also essential to ensure that these habitats are protected for bats and enhance opportunities for bats where we can.”
Bats are fascinating animals – the only true flying mammal – and there are 18 species of bats in the UK, with the creatures accounting for more than a quarter of mammal species in the UK and around 20% of all mammal species worldwide.
Weighing not much more than 2lbs on average, this small mammal is often found in caves, rock crevices, or under bridges. However, National Highways is going the extra mile to help preserve the species that made their home along the A417 Missing Link. 
Bat species being supported include the Lesser Horseshoe and Barbastelle, an incredibly rare bat that lives in deciduous woodland. They’re 4-5cm long and have a wingspan of around 26cm. In the UK, they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, and are listed as near threatened on the global International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)Red List of Threatened Species. 
Other species along the A417 Missing Link include Noctules, Barbastelle, Soprano and Common Pipistrelles, Brown Long Eared, Serotine and Natterers.
To ensure the bat population in the area were properly supported and evaluated, National Highways sought the services of chartered ecologists and have a team of Ecologists on site at all times to ensure the works are all implemented correctly.
Along with identifying the various bats, they also implemented a biodiversity mitigation plan that would see the scheme have a positive contribution towards local bat and bird populations, including suitable habitat adjacent to the scheme.
Work on the scheme goes beyond bats though, with ecologists continuing to relocate reptiles away from construction areas including baby common lizards, slow worms, Roman snails and adders. 
As construction progresses, green bridges will be lifted into place to ensure animals can cross the new road safely.
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 drystone walls 
  • 5.6 miles hedgerow 
  • 25ha native woodland 
  • 4.3ha scrub 
  • 7.6ha native grassland 
  • 75ha limestone grassland  
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:    
  • 3.4 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 the latest scheme updates here.


Notes to Editors

National Highways is the wholly government-owned company responsible for modernising, maintaining and operating England’s motorways and major A roads.

Real-time traffic information for England’s motorways and major A roads is available via the Traffic England website, local and national radio travel bulletins, electronic road signs and mobile apps. Local Twitter services are also available.

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