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Miss Alison Crawford
Woodcote Grove
Ashley Road
KT18 5BW

Atkins' fast track response solves ecological challenge in construction

A pragmatic and positive solution enabled by the early involvement of ecologists in a bridge repair scheme in Scotland avoided costly delays to the urgent refurbishment works.

Atkins was commissioned by Clackmannanshire Council to provide consultancy services to replace the bridge deck on Shavelhaugh Bridge. The commission required a range of skills including project management, geotechnical, roads and structural design and ecological services.

During a routine ecological pre-construction check of the structure, two weeks before to the scheduled start date of bridge refurbishment works, a pair of swallows was observed constructing a nest on the underside of Shavelhaugh Bridge.

As all nesting birds are legally protected, this could have meant a delay of up to 4 months. This would have meant that the start of works would have coincided with the salmon spawning run up the River Devon, in September, leading to further delays and the prospect of having to work in winter flood conditions. The River Devon is subject to considerable flooding, with the river level increasing by some 5 feet of water, so the likelihood is that the works would have been cancelled until 2008, with the prospect of having to be re-tendered.

After consultation with Scottish Natural Heritage and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a nest observation programme was designed by Atkins ecologists to monitor the activity status of the nest and its stability given the lack of support provided by the bridge's smooth concrete underside.

Two Atkins' ecologists, Thomas Goater and Duncan Lang, monitored the nest for a week, come rain or shine, which showed that the nest did not appear to be in use.

After an investigation, it was confirmed to Scottish Natural Heritage that no eggs were present. It was therefore concluded that the nest had been abandoned and, with SNH's prior consent, it was removed. Fine mesh netting was installed beneath the bridge to stop any other birds from nesting under the bridge.

Bridge refurbishment works were therefore able to commence as scheduled with no negative impact on features of ecological importance and without risk of the client contravening the law.

Clackmannanshire Council have recognised the excellent ecology service provided by Atkins, which has allowed the council to maintain their high standards of social and statutory responsibilities. The dedicated efforts of Atkins' ecologists and engineers, combined with the support, patience and understanding of ecological constraints demonstrated by the client was essential in developing a pragmatic response to the prospect of months of inconvenient and expensive delays. This committed, multi-disciplinary approach was a significant factor to successfully finding a positive solution to the constraint posed by the nesting swallows.

For further information, contact Jules.Wynn@atkinsglobal.com

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