Sweco takes sustainability challenge in its stride with Active Travel Scheme of the Year nomination
We are proud to have been recognised for our leading active travel expertise, as a finalist in this year’s Active Travel Scheme of the Year at the Highways Awards 2023 – for our work on the Ayrshire Roads Alliance A719 Dunure Road Underpass & Sensory Garden scheme alongside partners Story Contracting and Streets UK.
- Ayrshire Roads Alliance
- Sweco services
- Active Travel, Landscape Architecture, Structures, Ecology
- Story Contracting, Streets UK
Ayrshire Roads Alliance, Sweco, Story Contracting and Streets UK worked in partnership to design and construct a new dedicated pedestrian, cyclist and equestrian underpass, avoiding the need to cross the A719 carriageway and allowing the connection of a local walking and cycling path to the strategic National Cycle Network (NCN 7). To build upon the community benefit the underpass brings, a sensory garden and biodiversity area were also installed within an adjoining site, providing a healthier and attractive environment to be enjoyed by all.
Ayrshire Roads Alliance (ARA), in partnership with South Ayrshire Council and East Ayrshire Council are committed to increasing walking and cycling trips throughout the region. This is mirrored in the active travel strategies recently published by the two authorities The strategies combined with an aspirational network of strategic active travel routes represent the ambition for the region. The improvements created by the new underpass and sensory garden are one of the first steps in the creation of this strategic vision.
Macauley Wardlaw, Assistant Engineer at Sweco took on a site advisory role for the project and reflects on the story so far in South Ayrshire…
“This is a truly collaborative project with Ayrshire Roads Alliance, Sweco, Story Contracting and Streets UK working in partnership to design and construct a new dedicated pedestrian, cyclist and equestrian underpass, avoiding the need to cross the A719 carriageway and allowing the connection of a local walking and cycling path to the strategic National Cycle Network (NCN 7). To build upon the community benefit the underpass brings, a sensory garden and biodiversity area were also installed, within an adjoining site, providing a healthier and attractive environment which can be enjoyed by all.
Sweco specifically was commissioned to develop the proposals from inception to construction stage, with a particular focus on Active Travel and Landscape Architecture. Recently published design standards in the form of Cycling by Design 2021 were used to identify the most appropriate road crossing type, and consequently a grade separated option was chosen which “provides the greatest protection to cycle users crossing roads, particularly on higher speed roads, and also offers the highest level of service.”
Andrew Redbond, Associate Landscape Architect at Sweco adds: “Our Ecology team identified an area adjacent to the cycle route which presented an opportunity for biodiversity enhancement. The Sweco landscape architecture and active travel teams then collaborated to develop a concept design for a sensory garden at this location. The landscape team applied sustainable placemaking principles to create to create a multifunctional green space for the local community and cycle route users.
This sensory garden delivers multiple benefits including increasing biodiversity, place attractiveness, health and well-being benefits, managing surface water run-off, providing a community resource that is inclusive and free to use and is a focal point that brings people together.
Community involvement has been a key component of the project with the local primary school being involved during the project development and even helping with planting up the raised beds.”
This high-quality 3D visualisation was produced using Twinmotion software, which enabled a video fly-through of the proposals to be created and distributed using an online StoryMap. This innovative approach allowed clear communication of the designs to key stakeholders, offering an alternative engagement format to traditional 2D drawings and plans, resulting in a greater understanding and buy-in from the local community.
Macauley continues: “In addition to the design and construction of the underpass, the project team identified an area of unused land adjacent to the underpass site which offered the potential to improve the alignment of the existing NCN 7 path as it enters/exits the new underpass, enhance the biodiversity, incorporate green and blue infrastructure, improve an historic flooding issue and create a new sensory garden. The constructed garden has improved the look and feel of the local area, provides path users a peaceful and attractive resting area, and offers a richer and more therapeutic experience to a range of people with different needs.
Story Contracting worked in collaboration with ARA and Sweco to identify and source sustainable materials, particularly within the construction of the sensory garden. With exception of the realignment of a section of the existing NCN 7, the majority of the walkable surface was constructed with a resin bound surface using recycled material, which allows surface water to infiltrate and enter the subsoil, and a boardwalk surrounding the pond/wetland feature using recycled plastic.
The new underpass location was once part of a historic railway route (The Maidens and Dunure Light Railway). This was taken into consideration within the design and construction, again, using sustainable materials such as railways buffers, old railway sleepers, used for planters and cycle parking, and coping stones uncovered during construction from the wingwalls of the old railway crossing structure, used as rock features.”
A key aspect of our Landscape Architecture approach was selecting plants to create a sensory experience for visitors to the garden, with species chosen for seasonal colour, scent, texture and movement. Native wildflower mixes and foraging hedges enhance biodiversity encouraging wildlife into the space, specimen trees provide an established feel to the finished scheme. We’re proud of the results and its exciting to see our plans literally coming to life.
Andrew Redbond Associate Landscape Architect
This project is a prime example of promoting the shift towards net zero and overall road safety, throughout the scheme the project team strived to incorporate recycled, sustainable and/or reclaimed materials. From the paving materials to railway buffer features, locally quarried building materials and recycled plastic boardwalks, the project team incorporated sustainable, ‘circular economy’ thinking at every turn.
Macauley Wardlaw Assistant Engineer at Sweco
And the benefits of the scheme, in terms of positive impact on the local community?
“The introduction of the new underpass removes the risk to all path users requiring to traverse the A719 carriageway. The existing crossing arrangement is an uncontrolled crossing of a 60mph single carriageway road, with poor visibility of southbound vehicles and a history of fatal and serious road injury collisions. This type of crossing provides the lowest level of service in accordance with Cycling by Design (refer to Figure 1) and as such is considered unsuitable for a range of users, including novice and intermediate users.
This project has ensured that people choosing to walk, wheel or cycle can do so safely, tackling one of the key barriers to increased active travel. The sensory garden has complimented the new underpass by providing an attractive area to rest and/or visit, again, with the aim of encouraging an uplift in active travel. The exact increase in users will be measured over a 12-month period, using data collected from an existing pedestrian and cyclist counter, located immediately north of the sensory garden/realigned NCN 7 path.”
- New planters in the sensory area – Story Contracting ensured that as many reclaimed sleepers as possible were sourced within the localised area, both to create an ode to the historic railway line and also to offer opportunities to reuse materials.
- Cycle parking – This was constructed with railway sleepers to ensure that people can safely park their bikes when using the garden.
- Railway copes –Copping stones from the old railway wingwalls have been used as decorative stones throughout the scheme.
- Culvert protection boards – The scheme includes a culvert to direct water under the new realigned NCN 7 path, which were made from reclaimed railway sleepers.
- Scheme sign board – this was constructed purely of reclaimed railway sleepers.
- Recycled resin bound paving – the bulk of the path areas on the scheme are made up of this recycled material paving that allows drainage through the surface rather than running off.
- Railway buffer features – An old railway nearby was used to source railway buffers to be placed in the garden – This is a decorative feature that nods to the area’s industrial heritage.
- Recycled plastic boardwalk – the scheme includes a recycled plastic boardwalk which was locally sourced.
- Imported materials – all materials were imported from a local quarry, reducing emissions and supporting local business.
- Wayfinding – the directional signage boards were made up of reclaimed railway sleepers as a back board, removing the need for metal posts.
ARA, in partnership with South Ayrshire Council and East Ayrshire Council are committed to increasing walking and cycling trips throughout the region. This is mirrored in the active travel strategies recently published by the two authorities The strategies combined with an aspirational network of strategic active travel routes represent the ambition for the region. The improvements to the existing NCN 7 and the local walking and cycling path from Alloway to Burton are one of the first steps in the creation of this strategic vision. The underpass also signifies the start/end point for the Culzean Way, which aims to create a 30km, traffic free, active travel route utilise more of the old Maidens to Dunure Light Railway, connecting to Girvan.
The hope is that the local community will enjoy this area, with the project team undertaking some community events to ensure promotion of the scheme. This included a visit from pupils from the local school to walk around the site and try out engineering setting out and a grand opening where the kids had the opportunity to plant their own plants in the planters and take part in the unveiling of the project.
Sweco is committed to unlocking and enabling more sustainable travel – specifically ‘walking and wheeling’. Our active travel infrastructure consultants have extensive project experience across the UK, a detailed knowledge of UK design tools and techniques and a deep, unique understanding of international best practices. For placemaking expertise, visit our Active Travel and Landscape Architecture pages below.