National Highways responses to community questions


National Highways Responses to Resident’s questions on Tree Planting National Highways responses in bold

Residents from Histon, Impington and Orchard Park were very concerned about a lot of aspects of planting and maintenance approaches you have taken, so it would be good to know:

1)The overall strategy followed, and in particular

a) Why were not all whips mulched around the roots?

Whilst there are some merits in moisture retention afforded by the bark, it is not the most effective means of weed control.

b) Why have only some areas been weed killed or strimmed to give the whips a chance?

Strimming works last took place in Sept 20, herbicide application was carried out in June 22 and Sept 22.

2) In relation to replanting, what approach have you taken, in particular:

a) Are you waiting two planting seasons to replant failed trees? There are definitely whips which failed after the first season and will not be replanted until planting season 3 at best, which means if we get another 70% failure rate, they may not replant these until the final planting season 5 out of a 5-year obligation.

All planting which failed in the first season was replanted, all of those which have failed in this season will be replanted. We are working through with LPAs on what should be replanted which may cause a delay in this year’s replant

b) Will you be replanting in Histon and Impington in the last week of the next planting season (i.e., 2022-23) as you did in 2020-21 or earlier in the planting season to give trees a greater chance of success?

New planting was completed mid-March ’21 so within the planting season, there is a large area for the contractors to cover but all will be undertaken in the appropriate period to ensure the trees have the best opportunity to survive

3) Can a mechanism be created whereby residents help with watering the plants in the Histon and Impington area? Possibly if National Highways were to supply and refill bowsers residents could water the accessible areas. Or indeed in other areas (in which case please say which would be most helpful, and if you have already contacted the relevant parish councils).

Areas such as this are designed to ‘allow’ for a level of failure and due to the size of the scheme watering isn’t expected to take place due to time and cost. Its more efficient to replace the trees than water through the year. Due to proximity of the trees to the SRN we wouldn’t authorise the public to enter these sites.

4) NIAB have water in the adjacent field to one of the more exposed/ parched unsuccessful planting areas. Could National Highways get NIAB to water that area?

We wouldn’t plan for areas to be watered as mentioned in answer above

5) For the whole scheme to date, i.e., since the first sapling was planted:

  1. How much did the tree planting cost – all costs? Ie the total cost of planting the initial 800k trees

Approx £1.9m for all costs incurred with landscaping to date

  • What’s the carbon footprint of planting schemes of this scale? Footprint of growing in nursery, moving and planting them, transporting staff around to plant and maintain them?

This isn’t known

  • How much weed killer and pesticide used?

This isn’t available

  • How many plastic supports used?


Other questions from residents include:

  1. why is herbicide being used when it has been linked with loss of biodiversity, such a glyphosate killing bees?

It is standard practice to use herbicides to remove competing weeds that would otherwise hinder plant health.

  • Will you be switching to biodegradable tree guards?

No we have looked at this before and this is not being considered at this time

  • What is the carbon footprint of the whole A14 widening scheme

This is detailed in the Environmental statement Carbon assessment as part of the DCO submission

  • How many trees were chopped down?

This isn’t available

  • How much carbon was sequestered and what is the current rate of sequestration from the new planting?

This isn’t known

  • Was the tree planting put out to external contractors? If so, what incentive was there for them to employ good practices and thus achieve a higher success rate?

All contractors are subject to quality audit to enable qualification to work on all NH schemes nationwide and all nursery suppliers were similarly vetted on their premises for quality of plants and their handling systems etc. The NH appointed landscape inspector throughout the capital works, regularly observed the field teams at work, delivery to site and storage methods and finished works as well as inspection.

  • Was there sufficient retention money held by National Highways to give them strength when requiring the contractors to rectify their work?

There has to be some accountability for the waste of both trees and public money. The A14 contract is just one of many nationwide. Potentially a huge mismanagement which shouldn’t be allowed to continue. A failure rate of 20% is expected and planned for, the higher failure rate is being investigated to learn lessons and pass this on to other schemes

8)The land that left as a legacy project for Histon and Impington’s own tree planting by HI trees was seriously compacted by A14 equipment. The community asked and was told they would perforate the soil and break it up. This exacerbates the situation. It is now plain to see in the area by Holiday Inn the state of the land and growth around the trees in the part that National Highways had been using and gave back, and the area that was not compacted. We have photos. The land given back by National Highways is bare and cracked around the saplings compared to the land immediately adjacent which is Green with other plants around the saplings. Can National Highways come back and rectify this?

Unfortunately, this is consistent of the rest of scheme where planting into newly topsoiled areas especially on the clay rich soils on this scheme. No further work will take place in this area

  • Are the tree survival rates and other environmental findings of this scheme published in the public domain so that other schemes can use this to argue for a stronger and more effective commitment from National Highways for an environmental settlement in future schemes. The ‘two trees planted’ for every one tree felled slogan that was widely used by National highways is a little hard to stomach with 70 percent failure rates.

All documents which were submitted for the DCO are available on the PINS website. In line with the DCO obligation all failed trees will be replanted for the first five years. As previously mentioned, lessons learnt from the A14 are being shared across the industry, not just those relating to landscape but more widely.

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