Grass cutting trial could benefit Nottinghamshire wildlife

12 July 2018

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A pilot trial is currently taking place to reduce the frequency of grass cutting on selected rural roads in Nottinghamshire – which could benefit natural habitats and won’t compromise safety.

The locations for the trial sites at Top Road and Springs Road in Misson, near Retford and East Bridgford Road, Main Street and Newton Lane in Newton, near East Bridgford have been chosen by the County Council and Via East Midlands in collaboration with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and Misson and Newton parish councils.

The selected roads will also have a speed limit of 50mph or more, and the trial is underway for one growing season only. The roads selected may have junctions and footways however, the grass in the vicinity of footways and at road junctions will continue to be cut at their original frequencies.

The current cutting frequency for rural roads with no footways is a single swath cut (the length can be up to 1.2m) twice a year for two years, with the full width of the verge cut every third year.

The grass cutting frequencies for the proposed trial sites during the current growing season will be reduced to one single swath cut per year. At present there are no proposals to reduce the grass cutting frequencies for the trial sites in future years.

Councillor John Cottee, Committee Chairman for Communities and Place, at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “The trial sites are being monitored through the current growing season to ensure that the reduced grass cutting frequency does not compromise safety. If safety concerns are identified, the sites will immediately revert back to the original cutting frequencies. We believe this is worth trialling for the potential environmental benefits it can bring to Nottinghamshire.”

“If there’s are any other parish councils who might be interested in participating for future growing seasons – then I would encourage them to contact our highways team”

Mark Speck, Northern Conservation Officer at Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, said: “This pilot trial will allow broadleaved plants the opportunity to flower and, crucially, set seed. There will be an increased amount of pollen and nectar source for insects and arguably an attractive appearance to our roadside verges. Before the advent of herbicides and fertilisers, flower filled meadows were a familiar sight in Nottinghamshire. Sadly 97% of species-rich grasslands in the county have disappeared since the 1930s.

“This means that our road verges have become a vital refuge for wildflowers. With careful management grasslands can thrive in the county once again with beautiful wildflowers and grasses supporting butterflies and a wealth of other wildlife. We fully understand that motorist and pedestrian safety will be an important consideration when undertaking the trial.”

Newton Parish Council chairman James Fisher said: "We are pleased to be asked to take part in this trial, for this one growing season, and to see whether there are any ecological benefits for our village."

Dr Mandy Walker, Parish Clerk at Misson said “ Our parish stretches from Misson Springs in the north. It incorporates the Village of Misson in the south and the Hamlet of Newington in the southwest. The eastern border is the River Idle.

"As long as nature can be encouraged to thrive without compromising safety, which is our parish council's main concern, then it will be a wonderful thing to see the beautiful colours of a variety of English wildflowers among the long grasses at the roadsides."

A report detailing how the trial goes will be presented to the committee at a later date for discussion. The report will highlight any safety concerns raised, identification of any savings or ecological benefits and a review of any concerns raised by parish and district councils.

Any Parish Council in the county interested in participating in future trials can contact Highways contract manager Martin Carnaffin for more information martin.carnaffin@nottscc.gov.uk.

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