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Responding to the Climate Change Emergency with a new way of managing highway grass verges

28 May 2021

Richmond Council has significantly reduced how often it cuts its highway grass verges as part of its Climate Emergency Strategy, with the aim of enhancing the borough's biodiversity and reducing its carbon footprint.

In 2020 the Council adopted its Climate Emergency Strategy. In response to the strategy, the Council's Parks Team has explored more environmentally sympathetic ways of working. These include trialling a new maintenance approach for the borough's highway grass verges to increase biodiversity, improve habitats for native flora and fauna, reduce the Council's carbon footprint and improve air quality in Richmond upon Thames.

Highway grass verges are no longer cut every two to three weeks during the growing season. The new approach allocates the borough's grass verges to different categories, which will be mown at different frequencies, ranging from monthly during the growing season for some verges, to two or three cuts for other verges, or just one cut per year at the end of the growing season for areas categorised as conservation verges.

The Council's Parks Team has worked closely with its grounds maintenance contractor to assign appropriate maintenance regimes for each highway grass verge. Decision-making has been based on the size and location of grass verges, safety and visibility considerations, nearby facilities, and previous feedback from residents.

You can learn more about the categories and find out which areas of the borough fall into which categories on the Management of highway grass verges web page.

Cllr Julia Neden-Watts said:

"The new maintenance approach for our grass verges is not a cost-cutting exercise, in fact it costs the same as the existing routine. It’s a new way of working that will help us mitigate the impact of climate change and make Richmond upon Thames a greener borough. 

"Whilst the current appearance of grass verges may be different from what we have been used to, it is hoped that residents will acknowledge the environmental benefits of letting our verges grow.

"Cutting highway grass verges every two to three weeks disrupts the growth cycle for native plants and wildflowers. By allowing the verges to flourish for longer between cuts, and removing the cut grass to reduce soil fertility, we will encourage flowering plants, enhance habitat for pollinators and improve soil health.

"We declared a Climate Emergency and we must acknowledge its ecological implications – we are now implementing changes that will help us work towards a cleaner and greener borough."

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Up to: May 2021

Updated: 28 May 2021