Agenda item

Verge Maintenance Policy


Benjamin Hill (Contract & Policy Engineer) presented the item and highlighted the following points: 

·      The note outlined the principal activities, procedures and benefits in the new policy in line with the best practice and guidance for plant life  

·      This started when  ‘Plantlife conservation charities contacted local authorities to consider the wider issues around biodiversity and the environmental impact 

·      The new policy will raise awareness of the biodiversity value of roadside verges in Warwickshire in line with their road safety purpose 

·      The current policy separated mowing into two separate programmes (rural and non-rural) and the contractors engaged in this work cross county  

·      Rural mowing included verges outside towns and villages that typically have a speed limit more than 40mph. They were cut on a safety basis of 1 metre swathe plus additional areas at junction bends 

·      These were cut three times a year  

·      Non-rural verges were situated in towns and villages generally with a speed limit of 40mph or less. The District and Borough Councils managed these verges and mowed them 10-15 times annually  

·      The new policy will affect rural verge mowing as certain verges with good biodiversity value will only be cut once a year between August and September to allow for the growth/flowering of wildflowers while preventing verges from being dominated by a particular species 

·      Sites will be identified by the WCC ecology team  

·      Non-rural mowing will have a introduce a community engagement scheme which will give local interest groups, parish/town/district/borough councils the opportunity to explore the possibility of reducing the level of cuts for non-rural verges 

·      Local interest groups, parish/town/district/borough councilswill in effect maintain a section of highway verge within these areas and an officer from county highways will assess the site to ensure it fits with the new policy  

·      County Highways will then request for its removal from the relevant District or Borough Councils normal mowing schedule 


The committee praised the report. 


In response to Councillor Chilvers, Benjamin Hill stated that WCC pay money to the Borough and District Councils to maintain the non-rural verges to effectively cover the safety element of mowing (mowing three times a year). The councils then decide how many more times they wish to mow the verges which they pay for themselves. 

Following a supplementary from Councillor Chilvers, Benjamin Hill said that the applicants must agree not to use weedkiller on the verges as part of the community engagement scheme.   

Councillor Sinclair suggested making the community engagement element on the policy clear for residents and a visual map for them to make it clear on the biodiversity importance with the new policy.  

Benjamin Hill concurred with this and said a map was being produced and this new policy would not incur any additional costs on the Council. 


Councillor D’Arcy noted that some residents were split on these wildlife areas, but they were needed to protect the bees. 


Councillor Fradgley queried if WCC make biodiversity assessments on larger areas in towns as these spaces needed to be managed appropriately.  


Councillor Humphreys noted that long grass or overgrown trees on some verges and raised roundabouts had caused accidents.  


Councillor Baxter-Payne noted that these areas needed to look like wildflower meadows and not like someone could not be bothered to mow the grass. The Chair concurred with this and added that these areas need to be maintained as wildflower meadows.  

Councillor Chilvers suggested signs up outside the meadow area. Councillor Sinclair concurred with this.  


Benjamin Hill said that only public highway land would be directly included in the policy, but roundabouts were not specifically precluded from the policy however would need to be reviewed on a safety basis. For the community aspect, individuals would need to apply through their parish/town/district/borough council. They would then need to do a consultation process with the residents to ensure that there is ‘buy-in’ from the project because it would be divisive. Any seeds planted on the public highway would be looked at in two ways, an amenity perspective and aesthetic perspective. Ecology would be worked with to maintain this balance and they would only use native flower seeds for the sites and ensure they are suitable.   

Shail Chohan added that they were following the best guidance with planting wildflower seeds and were using what was native and naturally grew in the areas of Warwickshire. Contractors looked at alternatives to weedkiller but these were unsuccessful, but alternatives were still being sought.   


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