Council says ecological surveys have been carried out regularly with two areas left to protect nesting birds or bats
Cheshire West and Chester Council has defended pressing ahead with a £7m road widening scheme east of Chester including removing trees during the nesting season.
The project will address pinch points on the Tarvin to Chester section of the A51 route by improving signage, providing an additional westbound lane and widening the road.
Some right-turn movements at the Hare Lane/Littleton Lane junction will also be removed to avoid delays, accidents and 'rat running'.
But the council offered reassurances after CheshireLive reader Roger Hones raised concerns about nesting birds when trees were felled and questioned the 'business as usual' approach given the climate emergency and uncertainties created by the pandemic.
He said: "While we have all been staying home to save lives, dozens of trees and some hedges have been taken out by our authority's contractors in preparation for a scheme to relieve pinch points alongside the A51 at Stamford Bridge, just east of Chester.
"This has all happened in bird nesting season and across the River Gowy where we do have otters, kingfishers and in an area where barn owls hunt. I believe local authorities do have rights to carry out these types of works during bird nesting season however it's very unfortunate that just when we have been witnessing nature benefit from less human activity, this happens.
"Additionally this £7m scheme to relieve pinch points on the A51 was designed and approved before our council declared a climate emergency.
"Although the council has pledged in its current plan to look at the positive and negative impact of capital projects on climate change, it does not seem to be prepared to step back and review this particular project given the need to protect our climate, the uncertain economic outlook post Covid-19 and other new pressures on council funds arising from lockdown.
"In my view, proceeding with this road scheme without further review and disturbing nature in this way shows poor judgment and a 'business as usual' approach during a climate emergency and pandemic."
When approved, the council argued the project would not only cut journey times but also improve air quality and reduce accidents in the area – while also improving infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists.
Deputy council leader Cllr Karen Shore, cabinet member for environment, highways and strategic transport, said in a statement: "The site clearance activities visible along part of the A51 near Stamford Bridge are essential preliminary works associated with the A51 Tarvin to Chester Improvement Scheme which has now secured full funding to proceed.
"Regular ecological surveys have been carried out over the last two years in preparation for the scheme. The vegetation clearance works were undertaken under the direction and supervision of qualified ecologists who attended the site every day prior to each stage of clearance works to check all trees and vegetation for signs of nesting.
"Two areas of vegetation have been left, due to one area of hedgerow with an active birds nest and one tree with bat roosting potential. These will be retained until the appropriate surveys have ensured there is no presence of either nesting birds or bats.
"When the works are complete, new verges will be replanted and we are working up designs with landscape architects. Some areas have already been planted with native wildflower meadow and fruit trees.
"These works were undertaken and supervised in full accordance with existing national guidance on construction activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, this included a number of site specific measures to ensure the safety of the workforce and that of the general public."
Thank you to Roger Hones for sharing this with us.