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Council wants to narrow underpass to protect great crested newt habitats

Cyclists and newts are in conflict in Southampton, where the council wants to narrow a cycle path in order to pump fresh water to a major newt breeding ground.

The council is obliged to press through the £40,000 plans to service the habitat of the great crested newt, which is protected under EU and British law.

One of the options being considered by the council is to run the 450mm pipe along a shared use underpass below The Avenue, narrowing it by 70cm.

Southampton Cycling Campaign spokesman Dilys Gartside told the Southampton Daily Echo: “I feel this is a huge problem.

The underpass is one of the most used cycling areas in our city. Thousands of people use it and these include students from Tauntons College, King Edward VI School and Southampton University as well as cyclists and dog walkers.

“This is not the place to put a narrowing pipe. One must remember that the protection of human beings is equally as important as the protection of wildlife.

“The council has it in its Local Transport Policy to improve cycling routes in Southampton and says it is council policy to improve cycling and walking and active travel around the city; this goes against that.”

She added: “We want to work with the council to find a better way of doing this.”

Simon Hill, a member of Highfield Residents’ Association said: “The cyclists that use the tunnel go faster down it to gain momentum down the tunnel. Currently it is just about okay, but to narrow it would be unacceptable. This is right at the centre of a point of movement.

“I feel that it would be potentially very dangerous with the different users that use the underpass, and this will be more oppressive in terms of personal safety. There is just about room for two cyclists to pass and if there is a pedestrian on the path then you have just got about the minimum space to do it.”

A spokesman for Southampton City Council said: “The subway option would require a marginal narrowing of its width and some residents have raised concerns as to whether this will make the subway difficult to use.

“We are still evaluating the different options and will take the comments received into consideration when deciding which option to implement.”

One commenter on the story weighed in, saying: “It's a segregated cycle path though and the boating lake was never intended as a wildlife habitat, it was intended for boats but this story is just another case of the council cutting corners at the expense of others yet again, also as others have said, why not save many thousands of pounds and put in a reed bed around the lake?

“I've seen it used effectively first hand at college where the lake was fed by waste water from the on-site hatchery but the water drained into a large pond behind reed beds and it slowly filters through the reeds that absorb any impurities, the water enters the lake so clean that it's one of the few places I've seen southern damselflies breeding in large numbers and even mayfly which need very clean water to survive, would be a better and cheaper option (plus it wouldn't put more stress on water supplies) and it would keep everyone happy.”

Another agreed, adding: “One thing is for certain. IF the width is restricted, sooner or later a pedestrian will be hurt by collision with a cyclist. Then the cyclists will get more bad press or even be banned from cycling on the common.”

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

9 comments

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nod [66 posts] 2 years ago
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70cm isn't really a 'marginal' narrowing, is it? It represents 40% of my actual height!

Hopefully they'll pick another more sensible option, but if not I'll pick the non-cyclists this time and side with the newts!

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downfader [203 posts] 2 years ago
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Its not a great route for cyclists at times - often filled with mud and hasnt been repaired for potholes since christ knows when. For the paper and others to make out that we're now harming animals is an evil step to take imo.

There is every option of digging through parallel to the underpass but the council want the lazy option.

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downfader [203 posts] 2 years ago
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Oh and I'll also add that SCC are taking away access through one of Millbrook's parallel corridors - a quiet side road with a contraflow cyclelane so that many extra HGVs can use the road.

They claim they'll give us a shared path, but a shared path is not acceptable along there - too narrow, used daily by many pedestrians, and often parked upon by the local contractors and it will mean many cyclists opt to risk their life by using the urban motorway some 30 feet parallel.

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RhysW [81 posts] 2 years ago
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450 mm - that's a water main, bigger than the size which would be required to supply the demand of a newt pond!

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spen [127 posts] 2 years ago
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".......the boating lake was never intended as a wildlife habitat, it was intended for boats but this story is just another case of the council cutting corners at the expense of others yet again, ...."

Yeah, c'mon Southhampton Council, evict these free loading newts NOW!

Are these people for real?

However, from Google Earth, as I don't know the area, it appears that there is no stream feeding or leaving the pond, presumably it's formed by subsidence or as a result of past industrial activity. A reed bed would therefore be of absolutely no use on this pond.

However the usual advice for ponds with GCNs in them used to be that, as they live for around 12 - 14 years, the loss of a years breeding due to a pond going dry in a drought isn't so much of a problem and controlling water level isn't so important. In fact some suggested that periodic drying of a pond reduced predatory fish numbers and benefits newts. I'm probably well out of date on this, not keen on the slimy little blighters myself, but if anyone knows the up to date advice I'd be interested.

Anyhow, no real need for a pipeline as far as I can see.

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A V Lowe [575 posts] 2 years ago
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Too right Spen an 18" pipe taking up around 28" in the underpass? When a protected damp corridor would probably suffice. The thinking about ponds drying up also sounds about right too - should get rid of the predatory fish and the weaker newts.

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downfader [203 posts] 2 years ago
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I am told they shouldnt use a water mains due to chlorinated water being a risk to the newts...  39

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a.jumper [846 posts] 2 years ago
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Widen the underpass or dig a new hole. Why is this a problem? SCC got some bad news to bury?

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badkneestom [135 posts] 2 years ago
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So many villagers are at risk unless they get better. Perhaps cyclists are witches.