IEEM Welsh Section arranged a daring programme for their first meet as an ‘official’ regional Section. WAG’s Head of Transport Infrastructure, Plantlife’s lichen specialist and Jacobs’ environmental co-ordinator all spoke on the same bill. Given that some of these people had recently stood against each other at Public Inquiry, lively debate was guaranteed !
The theme was the A470 trunk road and the many improvement schemes on this route in the recent past and near future. We all agree that sub-standard roads need to be made safer, but what of the environmental consequences ?
I attended as a veteran of four Welsh road schemes, most notably the A470 Maes yr Helmau to Cross Foxes scheme near Dolgellau, which is due to pass through internationally designated ancient Atlantic oak woodland used by dormice, lesser horsehoe bats and, in particular, some very special lichens including Lobaria pulmonaria.
Here’s a photo of this species growing luxuriantly in coastal north-west Scotland. I’m in the picture to add scale only (1,000 layers of clothing not being my most flattering look!) – I’m 5ft 6, so that should give you some context for the size of the population here.
Populations in Wales are at their climatic limit, so are of special ecological interest as well as being listed as Vulnerable in the new Lichen Red Data List for Wales.
My position on this scheme hasn’t changed since the day I began working on it. Whilst it was a wonderful opportunity for me to survey some amazing sites and learn a lot about everything from lichens to snails to lesser horseshoe bats, I still think that sometimes the best way to make a road safer is not to try and straighten it, with all the mess and destruction involved, but simply to accept that it is sub-standard, and slap a 30 limit on it.