Government to invest £3m in network of wildlife-boosting green corridors

A £3 million project to create a network of 'green corridors' alongside roads and railways to provide better wildlife habitats has been launched by the Government.

The pilot project involves Natural England, the Highways Agency, Network Rail and Nature Improvement Area (NIA) Partnerships and will also landscape the areas to create wetland swales and ponds to store water and reduce flooding and also store carbon dioxide emissions.

Environment secretary, Elizabeth Truss, said: "These verges provide really important habitats for our precious wildlife, with benefits for people, businesses, and the wider environment.

"This project will make these areas better than ever, helping our vital pollinators by providing a home and food for them to thrive, as well as improving the weather resilience of our transport infrastructure which will boost our economy."

Natural England chairman Andrew Sells said the plan showed how transport infrastructure could become better integrated and provide more benefits to wildlife and people.

Dr Neil Strong, Network Rail’s sustainable land specialist, said: "Britain’s railways help move millions of people and thousands of tonnes of freight every day, which is why Network Rail is working hard to improve the resilience of the network to the impact of weather and climate change. The storms we experienced last autumn and winter only served to underline the importance of this work.

"Together with Natural England and other landowners, we are identifying locations where mitigation measures can help improve both the resilience of the network and increase our contribution to Britain’s biodiversity."

The pilot is a product of the Government’s Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP) in 2011 which pledged to bring together transport and conservation partners in the "creation of coherent and resilient ecological networks".

It will focus on the NIAs in Morecambe Bay, between Cumbria and Lancashire, and the Humberhead Levels, straddling Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. If the three-year pilot is successful it could be rolled out across the country.

The rail network has 20,000 miles of green corridors, also known as the "soft estate", while the Highways Agency has 30,000 hectares of land in addition to the extensive road infrastructure managed by local authorities. Other linear infrastructure such as canals, cycleways and power lines could also benefit.

The project is based on the findings of a literature review, carried out by ADAS UK, looking at research into transport green corridors across the UK and Europe. These were used to map out the locations best suited to conservation management and improving resilience in the two pilot areas.

Both documents were published yesterday.

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