Locale : Global (English)
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A3 Hindhead tunnel, Surrey, England
The quality of our environmental mitigation plans secured support from Natural England at public inquiry.
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Nature-based solutions: Back to nature

Client
Highways England (now National Highways)
Expertise
Environmental statement, ecological surveys, engineering design, construction supervision
647.5ha
of commons – Hindhead Commons and Devil’s Punch Bowl

Opportunity

Highways England (now National Highways) commissioned the ambitious Hindhead Improvement Scheme to streamline a very busy section of the A3 trunk road between London and Portsmouth. The Hindhead Tunnel removed a major source of congestion through the village of Hindhead and the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a dramatic natural amphitheatre and renowned beauty spot in the Surrey Hills – a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, special protection area for birds and a site of special scientific interest. It is also home to protected mammals and reptiles.

Solution

The project would not have received planning permission without substantial environmental mitigation measures. We undertook extensive environmental and geotechnical surveys, a detailed review of the illustrative design, combined with a wide-ranging consultation exercise, including visits, newsletters, website and consultation groups. Detailed consultations were undertaken with key stakeholders including the National Trust, English Nature and Forestry Enterprise. This is included workshops, aesthetic reviews and frequent meetings to review the design.

The quality of our mitigation plans secured support from Natural England at public inquiry. Site preparation was staggered so fauna could migrate to neighbouring woodland and crossing routes for animals, such as dormice and badgers were installed. Extensive landscaping included replanting of local woodland, a green footbridge and vegetated slope finishes. The old A3 was buried using the sandstone from the tunnel works, landscaping it back to its original contours and restoring heathland – reuniting the Devil's Punch Bowl with Hindhead Common for the first time in almost 200 years.

Outcome

Traffic congestion reduced air quality in Hindhead. The air is now cleaner, benefiting those at risk from respiratory ailments. The considerable noise impacts of traffic have also been removed, which led the National Trust general manager for the Surrey Hills to comment: “The moment the traffic went underground, you could hear yourself think for the first time in years.”

Substantial investment was made in the preservation, protection and conservation of natural heritage, and access to the green spaces of the Devil’s Punch Bowl and Hindhead Common has been greatly improved. An environmental monitoring regime has verified the effectiveness of the project’s mitigation measures, which have ensured the long-term wellbeing of the flora and fauna that inhabit this exceptional natural environment.

The project supports positive economic, social and environmental links between the urban centres of London, Guildford and Portsmouth, and rural communities located in the Surrey Hills and South Downs.

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