Construction work to widen the M2 between Cobham and Gillingham will begin next week, but in advance of the work the Highways Agency has been publicising its efforts to reduce the negative impact the work will have on the environment.

The primary achievement is the relocation of 100 Hazel trees and 10,000 tonnes of soil from a 400-year old woodland and the planting of 60,000 additional trees. The Highways Agency says it delayed its widening plans by one year in order to fit the relocation work into the correct stage of the local dormice lifecycle.

“Our forestry specialists have said that they will be very surprised if one [of the mature] trees dies,” a Highways Agency spokesperson told edie. The health of the relocated trees will be monitored for at least ten years.

The Highways Agency spokesperson denied the relocation represented an effort to distract the public from the fact that a motorway is being widened. “I don’t’ think it’s a gimmick or a trade-off. We have an environmental strategy and these ‘green’ features are built into all of our schemes now [see related story].”

According to Stephanie Wray, one of the ecologists who assisted the Highways Agency: “”We’re not claiming that we’ve created an ancient woodland. What we have done is to create a new woodland which has added value because it has ancient woodland topsoil. Whilst we’re not suggesting that translocation is a preferred option as it’s no substitute for conserving a habitat in situ, however where loss of a valuable feature is inevitable and the road is going to be widened by an Act of Parliament, it can be a valuable approach”.

Despite years of protests against roadbuilding in the UK, the Highways Agency argues that many people want more roads. “Everyone wants roads but they don’t want the landscape damaged,” says the Agency spokesperson. “We get calls from people all the time to widen the M4 or some other motorway. People just refuse to get out of their cars.”

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