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Verges, trees and hedges beside roads and footways

In most cases the grass verges beside roads and footways, up to the boundary wall, hedge or fence, are part of the highway. It's our responsibility to maintain the verges, including cutting the grass.


We usually delegate this work to the local district or borough council. In some cases they will do the work themselves and in others they will employ a contractor to carry it out.

Verges on the network are generally split into two types:

Urban, pedestrian and other specified areas

In these areas, we consider a minimum of 5 cuts per year is appropriate for safety reasons. This is especially important at road junctions or accesses where clear visibility for drivers and pedestrians is essential. District or borough councils may carry out additional mowing within the highway for amenity purposes.

Rural roads

Rather than for tidiness, the intention is to minimise encroachment of vegetation onto the road and prevent verges being overrun by undesirable species. Not all verges are mowed but those that are generally receive one swathe width cut per year (approximately one metre) from the edge of the road or footway. Once every 3 years the verges will be cut full width to prevent the establishment of self-set trees and other unwanted vegetation.

A few parish councils have taken over some of the grass cutting in their villages in order to provide a more frequent service.

Taking over maintenance of highway verges

We do receive requests from people wanting to take over the maintenance of highway verges and we will approve this if we consider the proposal to be suitable and can be delivered in a safe manner. Residents can apply to maintain the verge outside their own property and district, borough or parish councils can also apply to take on verges in their locality.

Application forms for cultivation licences can be obtained by email highways.hub@derbyshire.gov.uk.

Fly tipping

Collection and removal of litter, fly tipped material and abandoned cars from the verge is the responsibility of the local district or borough council.

Emergencies

For out of hours emergencies like fallen trees in storms, please call the police, tel: 101.

Wildflowers and bio-diversity

Some road verges can be very rich in wildflowers, which are not only valuable for wildlife like bees, butterflies and other insects, but which are also very attractive to look at. We've previously worked with other partners such as Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and the Peak District National Park Authority to identify wildlife rich verges which can be protected as road verge reserves (RVRs), and which can be managed to improve their wildlife value. There are around 37 road verge reserves designated across the county, and we're directly or indirectly responsible for managing 34 of these. We have asked our partners to assist us in reviewing these RVRs, so we can consider their value and how they might be managed in the future.

Not all flower-rich verges are designated as road verge reserves however, and as a rural county, Derbyshire has many miles of road verges, some of which can also be rich in wildflowers. This happens most often on the rural road verge network, which as above are only cut once every three years, with verges cut on rotation. This management approach has been in place for many years, and is considered to be a cost-effective way of preventing the verges from scrubbing up and encroaching on to the road. This approach does however benefit wildlife too, by keeping verges grassy and open, allowing some flowering species to survive and providing habitat for small mammals and other animals.

Ideally, where it is safe to do so, we could manage wildflower rich grasslands in the most ecologically appropriate way, by treating them like small meadows, cutting them once (in late summer) or perhaps twice a year, with the ‘hay’ removed. This sort of management should allow the verges to support the greatest variety and number of wildflowers. However, due to the frequency and timing of cutting required and the need to collect and dispose of arisings this management regime would be significantly more labour intensive and expensive to implement than cutting once every 3 years.

We are nevertheless in the process of reviewing verge management across the county, to examine our existing management regimes, look for possibilities to improve biodiversity and explore the environmental opportunities, practical implications and costs associated with different management approaches. Over the next 12 months, we will be undertaking a review of our road verge assets, and will also be talking to some of our partner district and borough councils about the possibilities for more biodiversity-friendly management in urban areas and on amenity grassland verges. We will then produce an improvement plan if appropriate, and in the longer term may need to review our policies, if changes to verge management are viable.