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Some rural Norfolk verges could be left uncut for three years

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 September 2015 | UPDATED: 14:49 28 September 2015

Countryside campaigner Eddie Bullimore.

Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Countryside campaigner Eddie Bullimore. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Archant Norfolk 2015

Verge cutting may be severely curtailed on some rural Norfolk roads in a bid to save nearly £1m and protect wildlife.

Lost harvests

Among species which campaigner Eddie Bullimore claims are damaged by Norfolk County Council’s verge-cutting policy are:

■Field mice and wild roses. The mice like to feast on and store the rose hips. In turn, barn owls eat the field mice.

■ Haws, the fruit of the hawthorn. These provide a banquet for fieldfares which start to arrive in Britain, from Scandanavia, next month.

■Thistles, often cut before they can seed. The seeds are a favourite food source for the highly-coloured goldfinch.

Twice-a-year cuts across the county could be reduced to once every three years on straight stretches of road.

The move has been cautiously welcomed as a “step in the right direction” by one countryside campaigner.

But it is likely to dismay those who feel the county’s verges already look scruffy and obstruct visibility.

Norfolk County Council officers are preparing a report on possible changes which will be discussed by the Environment, Development and Transport (EDT) Committee in November.

Goldfinch feeding on seeds of dried thistle heads. Picture: BRIAN SHREEVE Goldfinch feeding on seeds of dried thistle heads. Picture: BRIAN SHREEVE

At present, rural verges are cut one metre deep across the county twice a year.

But committee members have asked officers to explore options including full cuts on straight stretches of road on alternate years only - or possibly every third year.

The cuts would take place in late July, or after the nesting and flowering season. Junctions and bends on rural roads could be cut “intermittently”.

A county council spokesman stressed that highway safety would be the top priority.

For the past three years Eddie Bullimore, 79, of Anchor Road, North Walsham, has been lobbying the county council to restrict its verge cutting, which he has labelled “countryside vandalism”, to stretches where it is necessary for road safety.

Mr Bullimore collected 165 supporting petition signatures in a few hours at North Norfolk District Council’s Greenbuild event at Felbrigg Hall earlier this month where he was manning a stall for the charity SongBird Survival.

He began his campaign after watching a verge cutter destroy the nests of a robin and a yellowhammer near his home.

“After three years I suppose this is a start - they look as though they intend doing something at last,” said Mr Bullimore.

“But I won’t start jumping up and down until I’m happy about exactly what they’re going to do.”

Mr Bullimore said he had recently received a letter from a man near Wymondham: “He said a flail cutter had gone through the verge and left a (ground-nesting) skylark’s nest uncovered. The mother was trying to cover it up, but later the chicks had vanished.

“People like to see wildflowers along the verges. They don’t want machinery scalping everything. The money would be better spent mending potholes.”

Toby Coke, EDT committee chairman, has said he felt there was a strong argument, where it was safe to do so, not to cut straight stretches of rural roads.

If approved, changes to highway maintenance standards would save £980,000. The committee is trying to find £8.5m in savings for its 2016-2017 budget.

■ What do you think? Email: EDPLetters@archant.co.uk or write to EDP Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE

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