Oxford Direct Services completes sensitive car parking projects at Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve

A car park has been refurbished and another small parking area created at the popular Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve thanks to the Highways team at Oxford Direct Services (ODS). The work underlines the expertise of ODS in carrying out road and construction projects in sensitive areas such as the Natural England managed nature reserve.

Aston Rowant resides in the Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its nationally important habitat of chalk grassland, which is home to flowers including rare orchids and the Chiltern gentian, as well as the Silver-spotted skipper and Adonis blue butterflies.

The ODS Highways team helped redesign, resurface and improve drainage at the existing nature reserve car park and helped create a new, small car parking area. This not only improves safety and order in an area that was being used for unauthorised, sporadic parking, but also improves the visitor experience for those visiting the National Nature Reserve.

“Just like any landowner undertaking infrastructure works in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and within a protected Site of Special Scientific Interest, we must be mindful of the restrictions on how we can use the land and minimise the risk to plants and wildlife,” said Alistair Helliwell, National Nature Reserve Area Senior Adviser. “It was important to find a contractor that we could have a dialogue with about these issues and develop a working relationship of trust. We found this with ODS. During both the planning and the work itself, we were able to engage with the team, seek their engineering advice and agree the best way forward.”

Oliver Hearn, Highways Manager at ODS, added, “Our team’s experience working in heritage areas around Oxford, as well the expertise available within the wider ODS group on environmental and conservation issues placed us in an excellent position to carry out the Aston Rowant works, and other similar sensitive projects.”

In April 2018, Oxford City Council divested itself of ODS with over 700 staff transferred to the new organisation, which operates like a social enterprise. ODS delivers a wide-range of services to over 150,000 residents, businesses and organisations in the Oxford area including highways and engineering, waste and recycling, street cleaning, construction, property and grounds maintenance. The new structure allows ODS to offer its services to other commercial customers with all profits generated being reinvested back into the community, via the city council.