HAVING made their home around the Central Belt’s former steelworks, the amphibians of Lanarkshire are a hardy band – but even they need a helping hand now and then.
In what is seen as great news for the region’s rarest members of the salamander family, an enterprising property developer has devised an innovative wildlife crossing which will allow the creatures to safely navigate a busy road.
We are pleased to be doing our bit to safeguard such an important pocket of rare wildlifeColin Anderson
The plans for the village of Glenboig will see a unique underpass built under a new link road which, experts hope, will allow the area’s newt population to thrive.
The unusual engineering solution looks set to bring to an end the dilemma faced by Banks Property, which is looking to build more than 1,000 houses in the area of north of Coatbridge. The region, which adjoins Gartcosh nature reserve, is home to the largest colony of great crested newts anywhere in Scotland. Populations of the dark grey-brown creatures, a protected species, have dwindled over the years due to loss of habitat.
But since the formation of the reserve eight years ago, the area around the former Ravenscraig steelworks has proved fertile ground for the newts.
It is estimated that as many as 1,000 adults are based there, around half of whom are of the great crested variety.
For Banks, the discovery of the amphibians led to hold-ups as wildlife experts were called in last summer to search through grassland as part of an ecological investigation. Now, the Hamilton-based company hopes its plans for the region will find favour with North Lanarkshire Council, with preservation bodies also on side.
As part of its blueprints, Banks intends to create the new link road and the underpass while expanding the nature reserve.
The firm has been granted a great crested newt development licence by Scottish Natural Heritage following an application that said the development will not affect the favourable conservation status of the species.
If the scheme is approved by councillors, the newts will be relocated during the construction phase and then reintroduced to a new specially designed habitat after construction has finished.
Scott Knowles, a senior ecologist with Heritage Environmental Limited (HEL), who acted as ecological consultants to Banks, said: “The team has gone to great lengths to show that, through detailed habitat creation and management, the amphibian population could continue to thrive in years to come.
“The agreed expansion to the nearby local nature reserve and the underpass to the proposed link road will also ensure continued connectivity between the protected nature reserve and the wider countryside – a key consideration for great crested newt populations which have suffered from isolation in the past.”
HEL assisted Banks in creating a great crested newt species protection plan that was agreed following consultation with SNH. The document includes details of all mitigation measures that will be undertaken at part of the £200 million development.
Colin Anderson, director at Banks, said: “We are pleased to be doing our bit to safeguard such an important pocket of rare wildlife.”