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The conundrum of Verges

It seems pertinent to talk about verges this week.  It is certainly a policy area whereby you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t: in this context to cut or not to cut; that is the question.

First the basics: up until this year, RCC followed a typical authority 3 cuts a year approach (except for protected verges and SSSI (sites of special scientific interest).  The decision was taken to follow the advice of PlantLife – the charitable organisation that has been campaigning tirelessly for policies that enable bio – diversity to flourish; their patron HRH The Prince of Wales.   So this year there has been  a 1m cut late March and there will be a full width cut in September.  This decision has been applauded by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and has delivered on one of the recommendations made by our Growth, Infrastructure and Resources Committee’s recent Task and Finish group on bio – diversity.  It should also be noted that 2020 saw a significant number of calls to the council complaining about the traditional 3 cut regime.

Are there exceptions?  Yes (life is life after all).   Clearly if a junction becomes overgrown (visibility splay) this will be cut – the regular A47 users amongst us will have noted this has been happening in the last week or so.  If you are aware of a junction that the safe use thereof has been significantly impacted by vegetation growth please log it onto www.fixmystreet.com

Now onto the debate / comments I have received:

Bio – diversity, climate change, the environment: the message is clear, regardless of which lens you care to look at it through, how humans are using the planet has to change.  For the first time since we started dusting our caves, human activity is categorically impacting the natural world and the balance thereof.  Aside from rising temperatures, rising sea levels, the signs on our doorsteps, here in sunny Rutland are ominous: reduced bee population; the insect massacres on our headlights and windscreens eerily absent.  Keeping our verges long is a start.  Anecdote alert: in the 1980s there was a class for ‘wildflowers in a jar’ at the Ridlington, Preston, Wing and Pilton Flower Show, first place awarded to the person with the most varieties.  Without hyperbole, I remember being able to comfortably find at least 12 different species (excluding grasses) on just a short stretch of verge.  Now it is not the same story – I’ve checked.

Visibility: the carriageway feels narrower, overtaking cyclists, walkers or horse riders requires much more care and so the need to drive more slowly to feel safe.  Hang on a tick – driving more slowly?  I can say with confidence that I have written blogs, answered hundreds of emails, had hundreds of conversations regarding speed on our rural roads.  Reducing speed is one of the Safer Rutland Partnership’s priorities.  Hours of meetings and lots of money has been spent on this issue through the delivery of traffic calming measures, not to mention police resource.    Could it, therefore, be a two birds one stone job?  Time will tell:  our accident statistics are monitored closely; it will be a straightforward task to identify any variances and to compare year on year.  #annoyingobservation: there is no such thing as a dangerous road, only a dangerous driver (thank you highways inspectors).

Cost: there is a cost implication – to follow PlantLife costs £14k more per year (yes, I know 3 cuts to 2 and it costs more – different kit is required to do the full width hence increase in price).

We will complete this season’s commitment.  We will review it.  We will make a decision for next year – traditional 3 cuts vs. PlantLife 2 cuts.   We will be re – procuring the grounds maintenance in the not-too-distant future – all of this will feed into the process.  One gentle point I will make though: if we are to

https://www.rutland.gov.uk/my-community/environment/grounds-maintenance/

 

Councillor Lucy Stephenson

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