A conservation group has hit out at National Highways for its failure to manage a green corridor that runs alongside the A14.

The government department planted 860,000 trees as part of an environmental improvement project, many which have since died. The landscape is also scattered with acres of plastic tubes and litter and the work has, in parts, led to the erosion of river banks.

Graham Campbell, chair of the Great Ous Valley Trust (GOVT) says serious questions need to be asked of National Highways with regard to some of the negative environmental impact of the road project.

He said: "It’s so not much about the road itself and the effect of HGV emissions on our air quality, but more to do with the vistas of failed trees alongside it and the miles of abandoned plastic tubes and litter that damage our ecology and blight our landscape."

The Hunts Post: Dying trees and plastic tubes left to rot.Dying trees and plastic tubes left to rot. (Image: GOVT)


In 2018, the new A14 Cambridge to Peterborough landscaping project was nominated for a BBC Countryfile Magazine prestigious Conservation Success of the Year Award.

This was in recognition of its attempt to mitigate the impact of 21 miles of concrete road across our countryside.

But the GOVT says, there is, in fact, very little to environmental gain to show for this huge, costly project.

"The vast majority of the trees have died following successive extremely dry summers and it seems many were planted on heavy clay without any soil improvement or any programme in place for watering during the drought," says Graham.

"How could National Highways have got it so wrong - even with advice from the very best tree experts?"

National Highways has recently announced it intends to replant 162,000 new trees this autumn following three years of soil survey. 

Addressing the issue of the dead trees, a spokesperson for National Highways said: "It was a combination of factors that led to the high fatality rate among trees on the project.

"The main issue was the quality of soil along the planting route. Soil sampling has since revealed the quality of soil had deteriorated rapidly in the last few years. There is an extremely low fertility level lacking in the key nutrients needed for a healthy tree to grow, as well as low water content.

"When combined with the extreme heat we've experienced in the last couple of summers, it was a perfect cocktail for tree failure."

GOVT says it has also been campaigning for two years to see the collapsing river bank in the undercroft of the A14 bridge at Brampton repaired. This is part of the 151-mile Ouse Valley Way.

The Hunts Post: This photograph shows how narrow the footpath has become due to the erosion of the riverbank.This photograph shows how narrow the footpath has become due to the erosion of the riverbank. (Image: GOVT)

"Such is the damage caused by the erosion, the path is in danger of disappearing into the river. And has been for some time. What will this mean for the eagerly anticipated Ouse Valley Marathon in September this year?

GOVT has also raised concerns about thousands of plastic tree guards, which should be removed after three to five years, in accordance with recognised good practice.

"The plastic is not just unsightly. The problems for wildlife and the pollution of our countryside are very serious," explains Graham.

"On top of this plastic we also have the general litter that mars all our roadside verges. The A428 is the worst example, but there are many others notably along the Papworth bypass.

The Hunts Post: Rubbish and plastic waste at just one of the laybys along the A14.Rubbish and plastic waste at just one of the laybys along the A14. (Image: GOVT)



"When will National Highways follow their own recommendations and remove the redundant tree guards?"

National Highways says the plastic tubes will be recycled and used again for the replanting programme starting in the Autumn. It also said it needed more time to respond to the issue of the Brampton footpath.