THE new cycleway being installed between Bridport and West Bay will destroy important wildlife, environmentalists say.

Professor Tom Brereton has launched a petition re-think the scheme in terms of its location and width.

The Burton Road cycleway improvements are being carried out by Dorset County Council and Highways England and include a cycleway being installed from the Crown Roundabout to link with the path to West Bay.

But Prof. Brereton claims that the cycleway route passes through some of the flower-rich grasslands in Bridport, which is home to five species of orchids – bee, early purple, pyramidal, southern marsh and common spotted.

He said: “Building the cycle path will lead to a small but significant loss of grassland habitat, which threatens the overall potential of the site to support orchids in the long-term.

“Although the current best area will be preserved, orchids are mobile species and the areas they use will vary from year to year. the larger and more diverse the are of grassland that is retained, the more resilient the orchids will be to extreme events, which will be an increasing feature of our climate.

“The area to be bulldozed for the cycleway, differing in terms of aspect, soil moisture and greater shade from habitat on the other side of the road, could be beneficial to the orchids in, for example, dry years.

“All of the grassland should be considered as orchid habitat, not just the most recent locations of individual plants.

“There is no getting away from the fact there will be an overall net loss of semi-natural habitat due to the path construction. Better management of what remains cannot make up for this.

“Given that grassland performs vital eco-system services needed for human health and prosperity, such as providing habitat for pollinators and carbon sequestration – intake of carbon from the atmosphere including that caused by pollution – this is ultimately a concern for local residents too.”

Prof. Brereton is also concerned about the width of the path and feels that the general requirement of three metres set by cycling charity, Sustrans, is too wide.

He added: “This does seem excessive in view of the environmental sensitives of where the paths cut through and the general need to reduce loss of semi-natural habitat and greenspace within Bridport, wherever possible, as part of our contribution to a healthy planet.

“A substantial amount of scrub will be lost along the old railway line, as the fenced path is only four metres wide in places, now 75 per cent of that will become gravel or tarmac.

“The nearby two metre wide Askers Meadow cycle and footpath north of Morrisons supermarket, which is a third narrower than the Sustrans desired width, is heavily used by shoppers, dog walkers and some cyclists and seems to work well.

“There is an urgent need to look again at exactly how wide these new paths really need to be.’’

Horatio Morpurgo, writer, local environmentalist and a member of Bridport Environment Group, is showing his support for the petition.

He said: “To come across a stand of orchids is a part of what makes life worthwhile. They are there for everybody and we owe it to our children to ensure that they will be there for them too.”

However, Dr Annabel King, Dorset County Council senior ecologist, said that the works will lead to ‘improved road verge management system’ and the creation of a new orchid area.

She said: “We’re incredibly proud of our natural environment here in Dorset, which is why we are leading the way in managing wildflower verges and in our mitigation measures within highway scheme designs – leading examples being the green bridges on the Weymouth Relief Road and the reptile management creation of habitat as part of the A338 maintenance scheme.

“We are aware of wild orchids in an area of verge of the proposed three metre cycleway on Burton Road and are confident that the cycleway works will lead to improved road verge management, and creation of new grassland and orchid areas along the old railway line, resulting in increased wildflowers in the future.

“Now work has started on site, we can keep a close eye on these valuable areas and balance the needs of the local ecology with our desire to promote sustainable transport within Dorset, which will benefit our natural environment into the future.”

To find out more about the petition, visit

To find out more about the cycleway plans, visit