Landscape and biodiversity
Transport Scotland has a duty to operate and manage a safe and reliable transport network that is fit for purpose but also to ensure that, as far as practicable, the natural, built and historic environment is protected and enhanced.
- Ensuring that consideration of the local landscape character is a key component in the development of new schemes;
- Managing and maintaining landscape areas within transport corridors to reflect local conditions and requirements without compromising safety;
- Protecting the variety of wildlife and habitats within the corridor or affected by it.
It is important that Scotland’s transport corridors are designed and managed not only to meet their functional objectives but also to fit with the landscape through which they pass – reflecting local distinctiveness, conserving and enhancing areas of high quality or, where appropriate, creating positive contrast within the natural setting.
Transport Scotland is responsible for trunk roads, rail corridors and cycle paths stretching the length and breadth of Scotland, passing through a rich variation of landscapes including:
- Urban and rural areas
- Rolling lowland plains and rugged highland passes
- Areas of native and commercial woodland
- Open expanses of heather moorland
- Exposed rocky coastlines and inland glens
- Burns, rivers and lochs
Transport Scotland’s landscape policy document is Fitting Landscapes (PDF, 3.3 MB).
The primary aim of the policy is to ensure all strategic transport corridors are created and managed in an efficient, sustainable and adaptable manner with high quality interventions designed to integrate with local characteristics.
It has been developed to assist with:
- Maintaining a safe and reliable trunk road network
- Promoting and sustaining healthy growth
- Assisting transport corridors to integrate as far as possible with the surrounding landscape character
- Encouraging high quality design and place-making
- Minimising driver visibility issues and problems with vegetation encroachment
- Protecting and enhancing biodiversity and reducing habitat fragmentation
- Ensuring the soft estate is as sustainable and self-reliant as possible.
The landscape policy encourages designers to create and manage transport infrastructure that is in harmony with the adjacent environment, as far as possible, reflecting the local landscape character whilst supporting a transport network that is inherently safe to use and fit for purpose.
In some locations it may be appropriate to design schemes that offer a positive contrast to the natural setting, but the key to success is the delivery of high quality interventions.
Fitting landscapes aligns Transport Scotland’s approach to landscape and biodiversity with other related Scottish Government policies and forms an important element in delivering the ‘Greener’ strategic objective; to improve Scotland's natural and built environment and the sustainable use and enjoyment that people derive from it.
Trunk Road management
The Transport Scotland landscape policy is equally applicable to maintenance issues as to the preparation and delivery of new schemes. The network Operating Companies are responsible for the management and maintenance of the Trunk Road estate including the preparation and delivery of the following landscape-related information:
- A unit-wide Landscape Strategy
- An annual Landscape Development Plan
- An annual report
The Operating Companies undertake a range of duties with regard to management of the trunk road landscape asset including cyclic grass cutting and verge maintenance and the control of invasive species.
They are also required to ensuring the works they carry out support the promotion of biodiversity and nature conservation interests, as appropriate, including the careful use of pesticides and the sensitive management of wildlife issues. Transport Scotland spends in excess of £4 million each year on the maintenance and management of the trunk road landscape.
There is an inextricable link between landscape and biodiversity, and the boundaries and verges of Scotland’s transport networks provide a range of valuable habitats that support a rich variety of wildlife – both flora and fauna.
Some species are common throughout the UK whilst others are of national or international importance and carry the relevant protected status.
Road and rail verges and embankments provide a vital resource that supports plant and animal communities which, in some cases, may struggle to survive in the context of intensive farming practices and an increasing demand for development land.
Transport Scotland ensures, wherever possible, that any management interventions are designed to meet the complex balance which includes: protecting and enhancing roadside biodiversity; respecting and integrating with the wider environment; and responding to the needs and safety of drivers. Transport Scotland holds regular liaison meetings with other agencies and organisations, both public and private.
Together, we aim to respond to all environmental matters, whether of a local, regional or national scale, in the swiftest and most appropriate manner. Any mitigation will always have respect for the natural characteristics and local distinctiveness of the environment within which we operate.
Wildlife and Roads
Scotland’s trunk road network supports approximately 40% of all national traffic movements and, considering the linear nature of road corridors, this volume of traffic can have a significant impact on local wildlife.
The potential conflict between traffic and animals not only represents a welfare issue for the animals concerned but can also be a risk to motorists. Transport Scotland works hard to ensure that new transport developments avoid impacting on or causing fragmentation of adjacent habitats or, where this is unavoidable, that effective and appropriate mitigation is included in the design.
The trunk road Operating Companies, who maintain the network on our behalf, are required to maintain records of wild animal road casualties.
This information is analysed to determine where specific movement patterns occur and to identify ‘hot-spots’ of activity that require further investigation. The data is then used in the development of mitigation proposals aimed at reducing the risk to both animal species and road users.
Transport Scotland also works closely with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in relation to the management and impact of wild deer on trunk roads.
This involves a variety of mitigation measures including the targeted use of Variable Message Signs to display warnings to motorists.
The signs are activated at appropriate times of the year and in the relevant locations to warn drivers of the potential risk of deer crossing the road.
The Operating Companies are also required to prepare Deer Management Plans to help with the sustainable management wild deer as they affect the trunk road network.
Deer management issues on roads are not limited to impacts involving red deer in the Highlands, and our collaboration with SNH also extends to a multi-agency liaison for the effects of roe deer and other non-native species in lowland and urban-fringe areas.