Staffordshire County Council agreed a proposal to form a new enterprise hub for businesses in the research and technology sector at a site off the A43 just north of Stafford. However, during the development stage it emerged that a small part of the proposed site was home to a population of Great Crested Newts, a species which – along with their eggs, breeding sites and resting places – is protected under European law. Staffordshire County Council was determined to find a solution that would protect the remaining habitats and safeguard the species’ survival in the locality.
Newt populations are dependent on the ability to travel between closely located ponds, linked by a suitable land habitat and any building work which disconnects or isolates habitats by splitting them can cause great harm to Great Crested Newt populations.
Greg Watkins, a Project Engineer for Staffordshire County Council, approached ACO about its wildlife-specific ‘Climate Tunnels’. The Climate Tunnel system is an enclosed series of polymer concrete tunnels which can be installed to sit flush with the road surface, to allow amphibians safe passage across potential ‘risk’ areas, such as roads and footpaths. Slots are included at the top of the tunnels to equalise ambient conditions between the tunnel and open air. This allows for consistent ventilation and a humid environment favoured by amphibians, and also eliminates the problem of the tunnels dehydrating the amphibians.
The Climate Tunnels were positioned at known amphibian crossing points, so as not to disturb their migratory routes and to provide a permanent road crossing solution, in line with the legislation and guidelines in place to protect the Great Crested Newt.
As ACO’s Climate Tunnels could sit flush with the road surface, the council’s contractors only needed to undertake minimal excavation to install the system. The system is manufactured using extremely tough polymer concrete material, which has been tested to withstand loads of 400kN and certified to Load Class D 400, to ensure it is safe for traffic to pass over it. It also avoids the use of any metal components, eliminating the possibility of disorientating the amphibians with magnetic fields. The material itself is non-absorbent, with minimal thermal conductivity making the crossing more comfortable for amphibians.
Cllr Mark Winnington, Cabinet Member for Economy, Environment and Transport at Staffordshire County Council said: “ ACO’s Climate Tunnels were chosen to ensure protection of the newts, as they offered a discreet option that was animalfriendly. The on-going support from ACO’s technical team was also an added benefit.” Regarding the Climate Tunnels, Philip Windus, ACO Wildlife Product Manager, added: “Our Climate Tunnels are an ideal option for projects where the protection of amphibians and small animals is a paramount concern. Specifiers of the system are offered a range of options which can be tailored towards individual site requirements.” Staffordshire County Council are monitoring the use of the ACO Climate Tunnels by Great Crested Newts, along with Froglife, the national amphibian conservation organisation. Early results are encouraging, with four species of amphibian using the tunnels along with a variety of other wildlife"