Call to let Norfolk's roadside verges grow

One of the 112 roadside nature reserves in Norfolk and Green councillor Ben Price inset

One of the 112 roadside nature reserves in Norfolk and Green councillor Ben Price. - Credit: Norfolk County Council.

Calls are being made to stop cutting back Norfolk's roadside verges, after research found they made up 1,000sq miles of the UK's land.

A report published on Wednesday by researchers from the University of Exeter (UoE) highlighted the importance of the verges.

Ben Price, a Green Party county councillor for Thorpe Hamlet, said letting verges grow was a key way of protecting declining wildlife species.  

“It’s a good idea to encourage wildlife and biodiversity corridors,” he said. 

“Obviously safety has to be paramount so a risk assessment needs to be done first, but everywhere it can be done it should be done.” 

Green city councillor Ben Price. Picture: Norwich City Council

Green city councillor Ben Price. Picture: Norwich City Council - Credit: Norwich City Council

Mr Price said reducing verging cutting had other benefits as well, such as saving money for the council. 

“We should be taking those quick wins. But there’s a lot of work that needs to take place to enhance biodiversity in an urban area. 

“We need to bring the countryside into the city more.” 

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In 2020, Norfolk County Council cut back on how often it trimmed the region’s grass verges, creating what it described as 112 “roadside reserves”.  

Previously, the council cut grass verges five times a year in urban areas and twice between May and September elsewhere. 

The wet weather has led to more overgrown verges.

An overgrown grass verge - Credit: Andy Russell

Fellow Green Party councillor Jamie Osborn said he would like to see more roadside reserves.

“It saves the council money but it also provides vital areas for wildlife," Mr Osborn said. 

“We need that protection of that important habitat, which is vital for pollinators, without who we would not have any food.” 

Jamie Obsorn

Jamie Osborn, Green city and county councillor. - Credit: Jamie Osborn

The report said there were "significant opportunities" to improve verges by reducing mowing and planting trees. 

"Our key message is that there's a lot of road verge in Great Britain and we could manage it much better for nature," said lead author Ben Phillips, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute at UoE. 

"About a quarter of our road verges are mown very regularly to make them look like garden lawns – this is bad for wildlife." 

A spokesperson for Norfolk County Council said: “We work to balance safety and nature along our roadsides in Norfolk.  

“We already have 112 roadside nature reserves and we’re looking to create even more in the coming years.  

“This expansion will be considered by councillors in July, as a way to further boost biodiversity and make verges more pollinator-friendly in the future.”