National Highways to spend £2.9m replacing 250,000 trees that died in three years
National Highways is to spend £2.9 million replacing 250,000 trees that died just three years after they were planted.
The saplings were put in as part of a £1.5 billion project to upgrade a 21-mile stretch of the A14 in Cambridgeshire.
The Authority initially removed 400,000 trees as part of the upgrade project and replaced them with 866,000 trees to meet the development consent order.
But a report for Cambridgeshire County Council’s highways and transport committee found more than half a million of them had died.
A spokesman for the highways authority said: “It became apparent there was an unusually high failure rate among the planted trees… Using the learnings from the survey, National Highways has designed a revised replanting strategy, which includes a new preparation and planting aftercare programme.
“Replanting is expected to begin in October with the first batch of 162,000 trees already on order from a local nursery. In addition, all replanting work will be subject to a 5-year establishment period.”
The spokesman added: “With tree planting at this scale it’s common for issues to arise but we remain committed to seeing the tree planting programme on the A14 through to a success.
“The plants on the A14 have suffered from a combination of factors that have led to the high fatality rate - recent soil sampling has shown the quality of soil has deteriorated since we first planted trees in the area, and it now lacks key nutrients needed for healthy tree growth.
“This combined with the extreme heat we’ve experienced in the last two summers has created a lethal cocktail that has led to the high number of failures we’ve seen.”
Cllr Brian Milnes, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s lead cabinet member for environment, added: “Confirmation of this re-planting scheme is welcome news; residents were dismayed to see what happened with the initial round of planting.
“However disappointing the failure, we’re pleased that National Highways has carried out extensive investigations and have committed to rectify.
“It is especially important given that South Cambridgeshire has fewer trees than most other areas of the UK.”
Martin Edwards, National Highways project manager, said: “We take our responsibility to the local environment seriously and with that in mind we’re pleased to be in a position where we have a clear route ahead for the replanting of trees on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme.
“This approach will result in planting the optimum species of tree, in the right areas, with tree planting set to begin in October.”