Work has begun to plant thousands of trees and make new places for nature to thrive during the final phase of construction of the Heysham to M6 Link Road.

A range of schemes is being carried out to offset the environmental impact of the road by improving existing wildlife habitats and creating new wild areas to replace those lost.

They include projects to provide new ponds, protect and re-create species-rich grassland, open up watercourses that were previously piped underground, and translocate rare species, like waxcap mushrooms, to extend their distribution and increase their populations.

Extensive areas of woodland habitat, shrubs and hedges planted to help the road blend in with the surrounding landscape will also provide new havens for wildlife.

County Councillor John Fillis, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "One of our key commitments has always been to ensure we provide more places for wildlife to thrive than we take away to build the link road, so that construction results in a net gain in biodiversity.

"This will be a major focus of activity as the project nears completion over the coming months.

"The most visible aspect of this work will be the thousands of native trees and shrubs being planted to screen the road and mitigate its visual impact.

"But there will also be important projects to improve existing natural features such as brooks, to make them more attractive to insects, birds and amphibians.

"We'll also be creating a number of new habitats, including ponds and woodlands.

"The overall effect of the work being done over the coming months will be to achieve a significant new corridor for wildlife along the route of the road."

Extensive landscaping and ecological proposals were agreed as part of the planning permission for the road and include:

• Planting around 15 hectares of native shrubs and trees.
• Planting 13,500 metres of hedgerow.
• Creating otter holts and new ponds
• Opening up previously piped watercourses
• Protecting and re-creating species-rich grassland

Nine dedicated habitat creation areas will be established, and include improvements in the vicinity of the River Lune, the M6, Torrisholme and on private farmland.

These features will be managed over the next 20 years in consultation with Natural England, the Environment Agency and the county council's ecologist.