Transport Scotland Scottish Trunk Road Infrastructure Project Evaluation - 1YA Evaluation Report for A77(T) Park End to Bennane
Appendix B: Environment
This section provides details of the 1-year after evaluation undertaken for the Environment criterion in the Scottish Trunk Road infrastructure Project Evaluations (STRIPE). The 1-year after evaluation includes a 'high level' assessment of the environmental impacts of the project (where possible), a review of whether the environmental mitigation measures proposed in the project's Environmental Statement (ES) have been implemented (commenting on their success where possible) and a check of whether specific requirements of the appraisal process have been met.
The environmental mitigation measures originally proposed for the A77 Park End to Bennane were obtained from the project's ES. A review of the environmental mitigation measures was carried out in July 2013, as well as a review of the as-built scheme plans. Following this review a site visit was undertaken to establish whether or not the proposed mitigation measures as set out in the Schedule of Committed Mitigation within the ES had been implemented.
Noise and Vibration
The ES identify that low noise surfacing should be used for the scheme to reduce noise impacts for locally sensitive receptors. From the site visit undertaken it is unclear whether or not low noise surfacing has been utilised in the construction of the scheme. Clarification on this matter was sought and confirmation was received that the surfacing treatment was "thin surface material supplied by Barr's and this is likely to be low noise.
Land Compensation (Scotland) Act 1973
Impact of Project on Noise and Vibration
No noise monitoring has been undertaken as part of this review to confirm whether noise levels are higher or lower than those experienced prior to construction.
Global and Local Air Quality
Assessments undertaken as part of the ES determined that no mitigation measures were necessary for the operation of the scheme. No issues relating to either global or local air quality were identified during the environmental mitigation measures review.
Impact of Project on Global and Local Air Quality
The comparison between pre and post project opening traffic within the study area can be considered a proxy for the impact that the project is likely to have on both global and local air quality.
Given that the proposed scheme is not considered to generate any significant additional traffic, and the ES did not identify the requirement for incorporating any mitigation measures to reduce the impact upon global or local air quality, it is not considered that any significant impacts are occurring. Therefore a comparison between pre and post project opening data has not been undertaken.
Water Quality, Drainage and Flood Defence
Over-sized culverts were provided at each of the crossing points over watercourses. The site was visited after a period of wet weather and no flooding of the road surface or the surrounding land was observed. The culverts were overgrown with vegetation in some cases, but they remained clear of debris and water was observed to be free flowing through each of the structures.
It was considered that the implementation of the mitigation is appropriate to the site setting, and has been successful in its operation.
Assessments undertaken as part of the ES determined that no mitigation measures were necessary for the operation of the scheme. No issues relating to geology were identified during the environmental mitigation measures review.
Biodiversity and Habitats
The ES contained commitments for the protection of otters, and to create diverse grassland along the road verges.
The road verges were confirmed as being appropriately wide, and contained diverse grass species as well as several types of wildflower which suited the overall setting of the road corridor. Furthermore, the widened verges and grass mix that had been used formed a good linkage with the climbing lane constructed to the north of the Park End to Bennane scheme.
Plate 1: Widened hard strip and grass verge showing grass and wildflower mix
All three culverts constructed as part of the scheme have a separate otter tunnel running adjacent to the main culvert.
The southern culvert at Balig Farm had been constructed and otter fencing provided which extended c.100m to either side of the dry culvert for guiding otters towards the safe crossing point. Furthermore on the eastern side of the A77 a stone wall running the length of the scheme acted as an additional barrier to otter movements on to the A77 (both the fencing and wall were inspected and were deemed to be in good condition with no holes identified). There was no evidence of otters having used the culverts recently.
The central culvert, located at the junction with the B734 did not have any otter fencing present on the eastern side of the carriageway. A stone wall did provide a barrier to access to the A77, however, and a gate located within the wall had been appropriately fenced to prevent otters accessing the A77 carriageway. No sign of otters utilising the culvert was found on site.
Plate 2: gate within stone wall which had otter fencing built in
Plate 3: Culverted watercourse with associated dry otter tunnel
The northern culvert was well fenced for a distance of c.200m north and south of the dry culvert mouth on the west side of the A77. To the east, stone walls and a fenced farm access gate provided a barrier to access for otters to the A77. Both the culvert and the associated dry culvert for the otters were quite overgrown and thus hidden with vegetation and no sign of otters accessing the culvert was found.
Landscape & Visual Amenity
The key landscape features to be retained or improved along the scheme, were the widening of the road verges, and the retention / repair of stone walls along the route.
As stated above in the ecological section, the widened grass verges had been planted with mixed grasses and some wildflowers. The verges were in good condition and fitted the overall landscape of both the road, and the surrounding area.
The stone walls along the scheme were a good link to the surrounding landscape and field boundaries, particularly to the east of the A77 scheme. The repair and implementation of new walls was very sympathetic to the surrounding landscape and provided a quality landscape feature. The walls tied in to the northern climbing lane scheme very well.
Plate 4: view north along the scheme to its integration with the previously constructed climbing lane. View shows widened verges and the stone walls along its length
Plate 5: further views north along the scheme
Overall the scheme is a very good fit in to the wider landscape of the area. The design of the scheme was sympathetic to the wider landscape of the area and provided a good tie in to the wider trunk road network.
Agriculture and Soils
Assessments undertaken as part of the ES determined that no mitigation measures were necessary for the operation of the scheme. No issues relating to agriculture and soils were identified during the environmental mitigation measures review.
The mitigation within the ES identified that a milestone (which was removed during construction) be reinstated. The milestone was identified on site, and its reinstatement fits with the rest of this section of the A77 which has milestones located along its length between Girvan and Ballantrae.
Plate 6: Reinstated mile marker
The ES identified the need for new footways to be created at the junctions with the B734, and the Ballig Farm access road, this was identified as providing benefits to non-motorised users (NMU) through the creation of wider verges and footpaths. It would appear that the key impact for pedestrians / cyclists is the fast moving traffic on the A77 itself, and the creation of wider hard strips and grass verges was identified as mitigation for alleviating pedestrian safety concerns, however this was not stated in the Environmental Statement.
The site visit identified that footways have been constructed at both locations identified in Appendix One of the ES. However, it is unclear why footways were implemented at these locations. Neither of the new footpaths tie in to a wider path network along the B734 or the farm access road, nor do they tie in to a path network running south to Ballantrae. Each path is located at a crossing of the A77 where footways to the west of the scheme provide access to the beach. The footways do not appear to form a contiguous NMU route along the scheme and into the town of Ballantrae. The ES did not identify any particular concerns which would require footpaths at the constructed locations. Safety concerns for pedestrians / cyclists utilising the A77 was the key concern identified and this is addressed through the construction of footways, wider hard strips and grass verges.
Plate 7: New footpath on the western side of the scheme
Plate 8: New footpath on the eastern side of the scheme
The site visit did not discern any significant benefits from having these short sections of footway at the junctions as NMU seeking to access the footpaths has to walk a significant distance along the verges of existing roads.
It is recommended that during the detailed design process prior to construction, a review of the environmental mitigation is conducted to determine whether the recommended mitigation is appropriate to the overall scheme. If no discernible benefits can be identified from the inclusion of specific mitigation measures then their inclusion in the final scheme should be reviewed.
The creation of a new gateway feature at the entrance to Ballantrae does produce a better visual experience for drivers, furthermore, the presence of a traffic island at the entrance to the village encourages drivers to slow down on the approach to the village. It is considered that this mitigation measure is a very effective measure for both the visual environment, and the safety of the people within the village through helping to reduce vehicular speeds on the A77 within the built up area.
Plate 9: Entrance to the village of Ballantrae with new speed limit signs and central island on the A77
Assessments undertaken as part of the ES determined that no mitigation measures were necessary for the operation of the scheme. No issues relating to land use were identified during the environmental mitigation measures review.
The reinstatement of the stone walls and a milestone along the route give the scheme a finished look, and they mean that there are definitive landscape features along the route which help to provide a beneficial driving experience. The overall design of the scheme and the way it fits into both the wider landscape, and also into other trunk road schemes along this section of the A77, which enhances the overall setting of the scheme.
Much of the mitigation which was included within the ES has been implemented on site and is in good condition. However, the site inspection did highlight some issues related to the implementation of mitigation which does not seem to result in any significant benefit to NMUs.
The A77 Park End to Bennane scheme not only fits well within the existing landscape but the wider, mixed grass verges and the retention (and addition) of stone walls along the length of the route further integrate the scheme into the existing environment. The scheme links well into the climbing lane scheme to the north, as well as creating an effective entrance into the village of Ballantrae to the south which has been integrated in such a way as to encourage motorists to reduce their speed when both exiting and accessing the village.