MORE than 200 tonnes of sand excavated as part of the ongoing works for a new city centre drainage tunnel has been given to Chester Zoo.

The red sandstone donated by Cheshire West and Chester Council, in partnership with its contractor VINCI Construction UK, is being used in the Eastern black rhino and painted dog habitats.

During the works along St Martin’s Way and Nicholas Street, the two tunnel boring machines extract the sandstone and the on-site separation plants wash and separate it to meet the zoo’s strict bio-security standards.

Councillor Richard Beacham, cabinet member for inclusive growth, economy and regeneration, said: "We are delighted to help facilitate this donation to Chester Zoo and put the sand excavated to good use.

"Work on the new drainage tunnel is progressing well, we want to thank the public for bearing with us while we work to complete this piece of critical infrastructure as fast as possible."

Colin Rankin, business development director for VINCI Construction UK Limited, said: "Being able to work with Chester Zoo to support their important animal conservation work is a real privilege and we hope this donation can make a difference to the welfare of their Eastern black rhinos and painted dogs."

Dr Nick Davis, deputy curator of mammals at Chester Zoo, said: "We’re very grateful to Cheshire West and Chester Council and VINCI Construction UK for going the extra mile to identify a use for the tunnel excavations.

"As a charity, this donation has saved us over £6,000, helping us in our mission to prevent extinction. The red sandstone is perfect for the Eastern black rhino and painted dogs’ habitats, as it mirrors the animal's environment in the wild."

The council says the new drain is a major future-proof investment in Chester's recovery from the pandemic, and an essential requirement ahead of major regeneration schemes, including the Northgate development currently under construction.

It will run south along St Martin’s Way, Nicholas Street, Grosvenor Road and Castle Drive.

The drain runs almost 1km in length, 1.2m in diameter and require 9 access shafts spaced along the route, each 7m wide and up to 12m deep.

The works will result in significant environmental protections and benefits.

It will reduce flooding and drain bursts in the city centre, reduce the volume of water requiring sewage treatment, help cut energy use, and reduce untreated sewage discharges into the River Dee during heavy rainfall when the current network is already at capacity.

Over 99% of the excavations from the new drainage tunnel will be recovered or recycled, in line with the wider environmental strategy for the Northgate development.