Environmental and Soft Estate Management
The soft estate asset includes:
- Areas of highway verge
- cutting slopes
- areas within large interchanges and
- areas of land acquired during road building schemes
These areas are often used to mitigate against the visual and other environmental effects of the road and traffic.
Whilst much of the soft estate consists of narrow strips of grassland, scrub or woodland close to the carriageway it provides a valuable habitat for wildlife and plant species.
Road verges can be of particular value if they comprise of valuable habitat that also abuts larger areas of land such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest or protected or designated areas.
Conversely, roads are considered to have significant negative effects on biodiversity and can be a factor in affecting decline or loss of some habitats or species in certain circumstances.
Reasons for this include;
- road construction
- roads forming barriers to wildlife movement
- road kill incidents
- pollution, noise disturbance and artificial lighting.
An inventory of planted areas and the species within these areas is developed ensuring that the maintenance for highway and landscape management purposes is carried out in a manner sympathetic to the protection of species and habitats.
The prime concern of the team is the safety of the road user but there are also legal and moral obligations to adjacent landowners. Grass cutting and other clearance is undertaken to maintain visibility at junctions, avoid obstruction of signs and to provide a refuge for pedestrians or broken down vehicles.
The most common form of nuisance to adjoining landowners is the problem of injurious weeds spreading onto neighbouring land. The team must ensure that a proactive approach to weed control is taken across the network.
The team coordinates the inspection of trees to identify any dead or dying trees which may be within falling distance of the highway. These may also be on adjoining land.
Encroachments onto the highway or obscuring of signs, cameras or road lighting are also problems that need to be managed whilst causing minimal disruption or damage to wildlife habitats.