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  Handing on
our Heritage

Planning | Design | Implementation and construction 

WAYS TO ADDRESS COMMON EFFECTS TO LINEAR TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE

Introduction :This section provides a summary of ways to address common effects to landscape and biological diversity of transport and infrastructure. This is discussed in terms of the planning, design, construction and subsequent management of schemes. Inevitably there is an overlap between these four stages, partly dependent on local permits and procurement procedures.

Planning  

Code of Practice Pointers

– Adopt an approach, which seeks to avoid, mitigate and compensate. In the first instance consider the less harmful options.

– Include an early consideration of landscape and biological diversity within the planning process.

– Focus on significant landscapes/habitats and species, for example resolving the effects on threatened species; but do not overlook commonly occurring features of the wider landscape.

– Co-ordinate schemes in transboundary locations.

The benefits of strategic and scheme environmental assessment have been discussed in section 3. The planning of a scheme should aim to avoid sensitive valued landscapes and habitats. Inevitably a balance is required with these and other factors. To complete an assessment requires knowledge of the characteristics of the scheme, the likely effects and the measures required to reduce the negative effects. Examples of this type of information are summarised in Table 5.1 to 5.4. The earlier the involvement of landscape and ecological specialists the easier it is to accommodate changes to the engineering scheme, In the first instance least harmful alternatives should be considered.

Whilst initial effort should focus on specially protected areas and species, still it is  necessary to consider more commonly occurring features which contribute to the diversity of the locality, for example the type of field boundary. Positive benefits can be achieved by co-ordinating the transport infrastructure with adjacent land uses, for example to assist with the development of landscape/habitat corridors (as suggested for the Pan-European Ecological Network).

Where schemes cross national boundaries differences in legislation can lead to a double standard and unnecessary confusion. Co-ordination is required and for practical reasons it is easier to adopt one set of standards. Other problems relate to the mismatch of a scheme either side of the border with one section/terminal unknowingly determining the alignment of the section in the adjacent state with potential repercussions for protected areas. These matters should be addressed during the planning stage

Design

Code of Practice Pointers

– Relate scheme design and management to the character of the landscape/scenery and biological diversity in the area.

– Adopt a flexible approach to engineering design standards/criteria to accommodate the character and value of the landscape/habitat/species in the area. Consider the appropriateness of standard solutions in the local context.

– Be reactive to opportunities for enhancement/maximising benefits, and minimising disbenefits including fitting the scheme into the wider landscape and relating it to the biological context.

Roads are associated with greater environmental effects than either rail or water transport but this largely reflects the demand and associated extent of the network. In some locations railways and waterways can be equally or more damaging than roads. Strategic environmental assessment should help to draw out such major differences as part of the evaluation of alternative solutions. At a much more detailed level, the application of EIA to the design process of the scheme should enable decisions to be taken to accommodate local characteristics.

The engineering design standards of a scheme relate to the provision of safe conditions for the user with consequential differences in landtake (Table 4.1). Thus the need for gentle curves and gradients on motorways or high-speed trains (HST) have the potential to cause a greater negative effect than a more local scheme. However, larger schemes are associated with a greater need for funding and legal control, including an EIA. Such control can regulate the need for the scheme and ensure the quality of detailed design including adopting a flexible approach to engineering and other design criteria and/or standards in order to accommodate local features of landscape and ecological value. As new technologies are developed the design will need to consider their environmental effects.

Minor (local) and upgrading transport schemes may be subject to fewer legal restrictions but can cause significant negative effects, particularly in locations where the scale of the landscape is small and the value of biological diversity high. Such effects should be identified in an environmental impact assessment. This highlights the benefits of following the environmental assessment approach in all cases.

Table 4.1 Comparative land take for different design standards of road and rail

 

 

Design Standard

Total cross-section (m)

Surface area (ha/km)

Rail

classic

25

2.5

 

AST upgraded

32

3.2

 

HST

35

3.5

Road

2x1 traffic lanes

60

6.0

 

2x2

90

9.0

 

2x3

2x4

100

120

10.0

12.0

Source: CEC 1993

 

Particularly in degraded or intensively developed localities opportunities for the enhancement of landscape or biological diversity can result from the construction of transport infrastructure (Verheyden and Meunier, 1998). This can be more successful when enhancement focuses on particular landscape features, habitats or species. Other initiatives may be able to achieve such enhancement outside of the transport corridor for example, agri environment schemes which change agricultural practice.

Implementation and construction

Code of Practice Pointers

– Pay attention to detailed design with respect to the visual and ecological aspects including the use of fauna-friendly designs.

– Initiate/implement procedures to enable the acquisition of appropriate land for environmental mitigation.

– Apply best available technology including surface materials, feasibility of recycling and recycling of materials/surplus spoil.

– Assess the environmental effects of siting construction camps, storage areas and future associated developments, e.g. service station/marinas, maintenance depot.

– Retain specialists to monitor environmental compliance on site, including during the construction period.

– Inform and involve local organisations/people in these stages.

Land acquisition is a crucial stage in the construction process. The procedures vary between states but where possible the area acquired should include land needed to ensure the implementation of mitigation and compensation measures. Without the acquisition of such land there is no certainty that land occupiers will agree to the proposed measures with a greater risk of consequential long-term environmental problems.

Available information on the scheme at the approved time of submission for planning approval can vary. The level of detail in the environmental impact assessment can vary and also is mostly led by the engineering design including information on ground conditions from the site investigation. Prior to construction work there in is an opportunity for a further level of detail design where landscape and ecological matters need to be re considered alongside engineering, for example the design of the drainage to integrate with the setting or protect wildlife including water balancing facilities, and the benefits of different types of surface materials. Just before construction starts the need for additional surveys should be considered, especially for species which may have moved since the original surveys were undertaken.

The best environmental and cost benefits are achieved where there is a balance in the earthworks i.e. cuttings and embankments. But this is not always possible, for example site investigation may find that excavated material is unsuitable to re-use for construction purposes and requires land for disposal. Knowing that this is likely will assist the development of more sustainable solutions and the application of best available technology. For example, using surplus or recycled material to integrate the scheme into the landscape, or restoring borrow pits to benefit waterfowl. The ‘need’ to import material can extend the ripple of environmental effects of the scheme but is outside the scope of this Code.

Transport infrastructure differs from many other forms of development on account of its linear nature and the associated extensive interface of construction works. Earth storage areas/borrow pits and plant may be established along the route to reduce haulage costs. Access for construction vehicles may require widening/upgrading of the local transport network so spreading the environmental effects of the transport line over a wider corridor. The fine detail of such proposals may be known only at a relatively late date in the programme but at the time of scheme approval can be controlled by the placement of “no go” areas within and adjacent to the construction corridor. As an absolute minimum it is important to locate sensitive areas in the corridor to avoid risk of damage.

Procurement and contractual arrangements vary with the traditional separation between the client, “designer” and the builder where the designer acts on behalf of the client supervising the works. More recent arrangements include “design and build” where the contractor is responsible for the detailed design and construction to meet the overall objectives of the scheme. In this case, an agent may represent the client. The agent checks that construction work is implemented following procedures set out in a number of agreed method statements. This approach can provide a closer relationship between those advising on landscape and ecological aspects, and those directly undertaking construction work. It requires the retention of specialists within the construction team.

The application of Environmental Management, i.e. ISO 14001 (1S0 1996), enables the planning of construction operations so as to reduce the environmental risk including programming of work, for example, to relate to the seasonal requirements of certain species, such as clearing trees outside the bird breeding season. Compliance with legal requirements gives greater weight to the management system and this in turn is fundamentally dependent on the robustness of the local legislation and regulations. Inevitably, construction activities directly affect land occupiers as well as local residents. Relationships with both these groups will be eased considerably if they are kept informed. This assists with community relations and can have additional environmental benefits with respect to monitoring and early warnings of accidents. Specialist interest groups, for example local conservation or hunting organisations can assist with monitoring movement patterns of certain species and supplement other data collected on a professional basis.

Index: CODE OF PRACTICE FOR THE INTRODUCTION OF BIOLOGICAL AND LANDSCAPE DIVERSITY CONSIDERATIONS INTO THE TRANSPORT SECTOR
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