THE West Ashton relief road could cost an extra £4m to complete, in order to protect a rare colony of Bechstein’s bats.

The extra money will pay to raise the relief road by a metre and build bat tunnels under it, so the bats can fly safely to and from their roosting sites in woodland in West Ashton. The total cost aftyer the extra work, is estimated at £11m.

Bechstein’s bats fly across west Wiltshire between Box Tunnel and West Ashton, making the area a Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), and there were fears the bats might get hit by cars on their journey.

Cllr Horace Prickett, portfolio holder for transport at Wiltshire Council, said: “Raising the road is the only way we can escape the clamour of destroying this rare breed of bat.

“It’s one of the biggest colonies of Bechstein’s bats in the world and they commonly fly between here and the Box Tunnel. The road crosses their path so it would put them in danger if they had to fly through it.

“By raising the road, it means tunnels can be put in underneath which will allow the bats to fly through on their natural route, instead of having to risk being hit by cars.

“I’m pleased that something is happening with the road, even if it is a way off being finished yet.”

Wiltshire Council is looking to build the road, which will replace the section of the A350 between Yarnbrook and West Ashton, to reduce the amount of traffic on the A350 and to limit the number of accidents.

At an Ashton Park review group meeting at County Hall, representatives from Persimmon, the developer behind the project, updated councillors on its plans and broke the news that the costly bat tunnels will be needed.

People living on the A350 support the relief road, saying the current A350 is not coping with the level of traffic using it.

However the chairman of Trowbridge Area Board, Cllr Graham Payne, is unsure about the added cost.

He said: “It’s a tremendous amount of money, especially when we are having to make cuts across parts of the council’s frontline services. What comes first – people or bats?”

When details of the relief road were announced in 2015, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust raised concerns about the bats and claimed it was not consulted on the plans.

A Wiltshire Council spokesman said: “The revisions will demonstrate how ecological interests can be accommodated without detriment to the species concerned, most notably bats. It is likely to include re-zoned land uses within the urban extension and bat underpasses in sections of the road.”