Verge cutting information and maintenance standards in Dorset
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Management of Dorset's Highway Verge
Cutting of road verges is divided into two distinct programmes:
- rural – for roads with speed limits above 30 mph
- urban areas – for roads with speed limits under 30 mph
The rural cutting programme covers all verges on roads above 30mph. The total length of rural roads being cut in Dorset is 2691km (1,672 miles):
- A roads – 319 km (198 miles)
- B roads – 289 km (180 miles)
- C roads – 1025 km (637 miles)
- D roads – 1058 km (657 miles)
Cutting is undertaken by contractors – two cuts per year for A and B roads, one cut per year for C and D roads.
The junctions and visibility splays are cut by contractors and also regularly throughout the year on an ‘as needed’ basis by our in-house teams. Where required, we will undertake additional cutting anywhere on the network later in the season, in order to maintain safe passage along the highway.
The urban areas, defined as those within the 30mph zones, are cut by either our in-house teams or by local agreements with mainly town councils. We currently have agreements in place with the following organisations:
Under most circumstances the urban cutting cycle is seven cuts per year between March and September. We believe this is a sufficient level to maintain the safety of the network in urban areas.
Verges for wildlife
There is a huge opportunity for verges to be managed more sympathetically to help compensate for the 97% reduction in UK wildflower meadows since the 1930s. Dorset Council has significantly changed the way we manage our verges in the last few years to do more than ever to protect, conserve and enhance the verges in Dorset for biodiversity.
These changes include:
Increasing 'cut and collect' mowing
We are increasing the amount of 'cut and collect' mowing within the 30 mph road network – this is where we collect the clippings instead of letting them rot down into the soil. 'Cut and collect' happens in North Dorset, Weymouth, Portland, Purbeck, Bridport and East Dorset. Collecting the grass clippings reduces the soil fertility, resulting in lower growth rates, longer periods between cutting and a far better environment for wildflowers to establish and thrive; in some examples a reduction from 7 cuts a year to 2 has been achieved within towns and verges full of wildflowers. This reduction in cutting allows wildflowers the time to complete their life cycles which benefits bees and other pollinators.
Cutting the rural road network once instead of twice
We are only cutting the B and C rural road network once instead of twice. Previously all rural roads (40 mph and above) received two cuts per year with a side arm flail. This is now reduced to one cut, from late June / July onwards. This ensures not all the verges are cut in a similar time and many flowers complete their life cycles uninterrupted before cutting.
Creating designated Sites of Nature Conservation Interest
We are creating verges which have been designated Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCIs) by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT). Working with DWT, we hope to create, by good management, more verges of SNCI quality due to the diversity of herbaceous species present.
Managing Conservation Verges
We are managing Conservation Verges – denoted by blue posts – on the A and B road network. This is where verges which have been identified in having interesting flora avoid the first summer verge cut, and are then cut as usual later in the summer.
This package of measures ensures that biodiversity can thrive on more of our verges each year. While we have reduced cutting, it is important to remember that for wildflowers to exist on our verges, they will still need cutting. Too little cutting results in verges turning to bramble and scrub, which would prevent wildflowers from living on our verges.
Control of weeds on highway hard services, e.g. kerb edges, is done with a biodegradable herbicide. This work is carried out once a year during the growing season. This helps reduce weeds and maintain the integrity of Highway infrastructure.