Every year we undertake grass cutting operations along the roadside verges we are responsible for. These operations have been carefully developed to safeguard the highway and preserve important areas of habitat.
We have a duty under Section 41 of the Highways Act to maintain the highway. Our current Policy stipulates that all the verges on our urban roads within the villages are cut ten times a season.
The current Policy on our rural network stipulates that our A and B roads are cut three times a season and our C roads and Unclassified (local roads with lower levels of traffic) roads are cut twice a season. We have reduced the number of cuts on our rural roads since 2010 to encourage the growth of wildflowers and provide vital wildlife space on the Island's network and at the same time cutting costs due to the continuous financial constraints faced by the Council.
Most C roads and Unclassified roads on the Island are very narrow and it would be very difficult to reduce the number of cuts in each cutting season further, as this step would certainly increase the risk to safety of the users on our highway network. It would cause access problems for our refuse vehicles to travel down the existing narrow country lanes.
Grass cutting on roadsides is predominantly undertaken on the basis of road user safety, which was further emphasised during and since the Covid-19 pandemic with a significant increase in walking and cycling on our rural country lanes. However, without careful management and maintenance, our roadside verges would become overgrown with bramble and scrub and the biodiversity value of the verges would be reduced as a result. We firmly believe regular management of our countryside verges is therefore essential to help increase species diversity and prevent other competitive species such as grass, from overburdening the wildflowers.
As well as cutting grass on the roadside verges for the environmental benefits, we are also undertaking safety and visibility cuts to ensure the safety of road users and the environment. Safety cutting works are being carried out to create visibility splays at roundabouts, junctions and other entrances.
The verges on our Island’s C roads and Unclassified roads are cut twice a year, with the first cut usually timed to start in early summer and the second cut in early autumn. During the first and second cycles we only cut a 1 meter strip on all our roads and especially on verges where there are a richness of existing species. This section (first 1 meter strip) has little inherent wildlife value due to its close proximity to vehicle movements. The third cycle is a full cut and occurs after the flowers have completed their life cycle and lost their seeds. In this way, spectacular displays of wildflowers exist along the edges of our road network and provide a rich source of pollen and nectar for pollinators throughout the spring and summer months. This two-cut program not only restrains the grass and replenishes the bank of wildflower seeds, but also improves safety for road users, reduces the burden of control over time and saves money.
We have consulted with the North Wales Wildlife Trust on this work and have drawn up a special maintenance regime that protects wildlife in specific areas. The North Wales Wildlife Trust fully supports our verge cutting policy.
Additionally, for a number of years we have been working with the North Wales Wildlife Trust to look after over 20 verges specifically for wildlife. The managed sites are marked on the road with a white triangle and at some locations, the grass cuttings are removed in the winter to prevent the flowers from being smothered (see attached NWWT leaflet for further information).
Our officers work closely with the North Wales Wildlife Trust and annually evaluate each area of special interest.
We regularly review our grass cutting arrangements to address concerns, reduce the impact on wildlife and encourage growth in suitable areas, all whilst meeting our statutory responsibilities.