A message from your County Councillor - June 2021

After a miserable May weather wise, it's been great to finally enjoy some warmer weather through most of the month of June.


The downside to the sunny weather is that it has caused an explosion of growth along our roadside verges. Obviously we are used to seeing many of the country roads narrow a little during May and June, but in some areas this year it has seemed like we've had two month's worth of growth in the space of just a couple of weeks, leaving some roads even narrower than usual for the time of year and some junctions with poor visibility. As a result I have been contacted about three different roads and junctions in the past week which have required urgent work to be made safe.


The reports of the past week have been in sharp contrast to the majority of the verge complaints I've received recently. Instead of verges needing cutting back, resident's main concerns have been centred around verges being cut back or sprayed with pesticide when there is no need (ie. the verge is not presenting an issue to road safety or blocking a footpath).


The increased awareness of the decline of pollinator populations, combined with initiatives like 'No Mow May' mean that many residents would now prefer to see verges cut back only when it is necessary. I was pleased to see KCC taking positive action in this area when they released a Pollinator Action Plan (called Kent's Plan Bee) back in 2019. Unfortunately a number of the recommendations made in the plan still require more action, including the fact that KCC still sprays verges using glyphosate, a herbicide widely acknowledged to be harmful to bees.


I met with a KCC landscape officer earlier this week to discuss this issue. I was pleased to hear that trials to look into alternative methods of verge control not involving glyphosates had been undertaken, but sadly all the methods trialled so far have been deemed either innefficient or too expensive. In the coming weeks I am hoping to look at the best practices of other councils in the UK to help push KCC forward in this area and ensure that, as far as possible, they honour the commitments made in Kent's Plan Bee.


As a temporary solution, the landscape officer advised of an alternative way to save some of our local verges and help more pollinators; if reported via the KCC Highways fault reporting tool, KCC are willing to look at a reduction in the management of some verges, providing they are in areas where there is no threat to road safety and they won't block a public right of way or footpath. This will involve the area being mowed or cut just once a year in the autumn, rather than six times a year throughout the spring and summer, and will hopefully help to provide some vital additional corridors for pollinators.


The KCC Highways reporting tool can be accessed via tinyurl.com/kccroads. Simply choose the 'Grass – Maintenance Query' option from the drop down menu and select the location of the verge in question. If KCC deem the area to be suitable for reduced levels of management, they will make the necessary changes to their maintenance schedules.


Alternatively, please feel free to email me at rich.lehmann@kent.gov.uk with a map detailing the area which is being excessively mowed and ideally a photo of the verge too, and I will pass the details to the landscapes team.

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