Highways England to replace hundreds of thousands of failed trees from A14 Cambridgeshire upgrade

Tree planting on the A14
The first attempt to replant hundreds of thousands of trees by the A14 in Cambridgeshire was a failure, National Highways said. Credit: National Highways

National Highways is making a second attempt to replace hundreds of thousands of trees that were cut down during the A14 upgrade in Cambridgeshire.

The highways authority removed around 400,000 trees and shrubs as part of a project to improve the road from Cambridge to Huntingdon - which cost £1.5 billion and was completed last June.

It promised to replant 866,000 native species, which is more than double the amount that was destroyed.

But a report for Cambridgeshire County Council's highways and transport committee said a "large proportion" had died - around 40%.

Highways England now says it will be giving the project a second try from October, as it will be replanting more than 160,000 new trees along the A14.

It will take about 15 years for the trees to mature, it said.

Addressing the lower number of trees in comparison to those that had died, the agency told ITV Anglia it was the maximum it could get from local suppliers this year.

A spokesperson said there would be a survey in the Autumn to assess how the replanting is progressing, and the authority would then look to plant more trees next year.

The A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme opened to traffic in May 2020.

The A14 upgrade included a new bypass between Huntingdon and Swavesey, which opened in May 2020.

It aimed to improve links between the Midlands and the East of England, and access to the container port in Felixstowe.

National Highways said it has shaved up to 20 minutes off journeys.

As well as replanting trees, the authority said 270 hectares of land was created for wildlife - including the landscaping of roadside verges and transformation of borrow pits into woodland, grassland, wetland and open water habitats.

It also built 24 wildlife tunnels, put up 360 bat boxes, 90 bird boxes, 24 swift boxes, 22 barn owl boxes and 24 kestrel boxes.

Large portion of trees planted for A14 upgrade have died Credit: National Highways

Cambridgeshire county councillors Alex Beckett and Edna Murphy, and South Cambridgeshire District Council's Cllr Brian Milnes welcomed the second replanting scheme, saying there had been "major concern" and dismay about the number of trees developing dieback disease.

National Highways will be looking after the trees for the first five years. Responsibility of 40,000 of the trees will then be handed to Cambridgeshire County Council.

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