Road closure of Run Common Road, Cranleigh
Update on 3 December:
The badger sett has been successfully closed, and the badgers relocated to a new man-made sett that has been constructed for them as part of these works. The metal mesh used to close the sett will remain in place on the embankments. Our works have been planned and supervised by experienced and licensed ecologists, and have the health and wellbeing of the badgers as their primary concern. The area will be monitored by our ecologists throughout the project to ensure we do not cause any unnecessary harm to the badgers or other protected species in the immediate vicinity.
Next we will be carrying out some invasive ground investigations to allow us to finalise the design of the permanent repair. We are assessing what the impact of the works will be on the other protected species in the area, including bats, reptiles, and nesting birds. This information will help us determine the best way forward in terms of timing and approach for the permanent repair, and whether a temporary repair could be carried out to reopen the road during this final planning stage.
Update on 12 November:
Works to close the badger sett have been underway for two weeks and are due for completion by the end of November. At that point we can then undertake the invasive investigation works required to finalise the design of the permanent repair, and progress to construction.
The methods employed by Surrey Wildlife Trust have been designed to ensure the welfare of the badgers and include the creation of an alternative home. One-way gate systems have been placed at each hole entrance which allows any badgers to leave the holes, but not go back in, thereby safely excluding any badgers living in the holes. In order to encourage the individuals to use the alternative home constructed, Surrey Wildlife Trust have provided food at the new sett to entice them. Over the next three weeks activity will be monitored at the existing holes and the new holes and provided no badgers return to the old home and start occupying the new home, the existing holes can be closed permanently. This is a recognised method of managing mammals which can cause damage to roads. This process ensures that the legislation is complied with.
If we know that the permanent construction is likely to be delayed whilst we secure the necessary resources and approvals, then we are also looking at whether we can safely implement temporary measures to be able to reopen the road in a reduced capacity to alleviate some of the inconvenience.
Update on 14 October:
We have been granted a license from Natural England to attempt evacuation of the existing badger sett by 30 November. A variety of measures are being put in place - in conjunction with specialists from Surrey Wildlife Trust - to discourage the badgers' return to this sett and to encourage their adoption of a new one located at a safe distance. If we can demonstrate by 30 November that the badgers are no longer returning to the sett, we will be able to move forward and finalise a plan for repairing the road. If we are unable to achieve this by 30 November we will not be allowed to do anything further until 1 July 2021, this is because licenses are not granted by Natural England for works between November and July.
We decided upon a chosen course of action for a permanent repair of the road and submitted an application in August to Natural England to interfere with the badger sett. We decided on a robust solution to protect the structure of the bridge and embankment for years to come. This course of action will allow for us to carry out repairs to the road and allow the badgers to return without further compromising the structure of the repaired road.
Run Common Road was initially closed due to cracks opening in the surface due to subsidence west of the bridge which takes the road over the disused railway.
The road remains closed as during investigation it was identified that the likely cause of the subsidence was a badger sett that had undermined the embankment supporting the road, therefore causing it to collapse.
Badgers are a protected species in law, and we are unable to disturb their habitat without permission from Natural England, and if we do, this can only be done at certain times of the year.
We have used ground penetrating radar to "look" through the road surface at the voids beneath and we can see that the damage to the road extends beyond the centre of the road. As a result, we are unable to open it to traffic in either direction, or with traffic lights.
Heavy rain or the passage of large vehicles could continue to weaken the embankment, causing it to slip further.
Works progress to date:
We are currently progressing on three fronts:
- We are working with our design partners to understand how the embankment failed and design a solution to enable us to put it back.
- We are working with Surrey Wildlife Trust to discover more about the badger sett and their interaction with the local area to see how we can rebuild the road whilst retaining as much of the badger habitat as possible.
- We are discussing with Natural England how best to get the road open whilst protecting the badgers and complying with the law.
We have several potential solutions to reconstruct the road, but our investigation of the badger habitat is ongoing. We will then need agreement from Natural England on our proposal and license from them to interfere with the badger sett before we can appoint a contractor to proceed with the works.
The licences are typically not granted for works between November and July, so we have a narrow window in which to work. If we are unable to reach an agreement with Natural England which allows us to disturb the sett before November of this year, we may have to wait.
It is therefore possible that the road will remain closed for much of this year, and possibly into 2021.