LAST week, Highways carried out its usual act of annual vandalism by cutting the verges again far too early.

They had promised last year that they would treat four specially selected species-rich verges differently, one of them being the stretch from Horton-in-Ribblesdale via Selside to Ribblehead. However, before many of the late-spring and early summer flowers could blossom (such as the melancholy thistle, ox-eye daisies, the later orchids, melancholy gentleman, the iconic wood cranesbill and meadow cranesbill plus many more), let alone set seed, Highways cut the lot, even those species-rich verges they promised to treat differently.

These verges had already suffered badly last year from not one or two, but three wasteful cuts. (Cumbria saves a lot of money by insisting on cutting their verges only once a year.)

The early cut in May last year slashed all the spring flowers; as a result, most of them (like the early orchids, bluebells, etc.) were very poor this year or didn’t appear at all. The middle cut last year meant that this year the flora along the cut strip was stunted. Many of us had hoped that a late cut this year would give the wild flowers a chance to recover.

Of course, we do want the verges to be managed but cutting them mid-June (or even earlier) is so very bad.

Why not give them another four weeks so that the wild flowers can blossom, set seed and give us joy. Highways’ three cuts last year wasted loads of money. Cumbria insists on one cut a year because they know it’s not dangerous and it is better for wildlife, wild flowers, the environment and the tax payer. Why doesn’t Highways in North Yorkshire want to save tax payers’ money and improve the environment at the same time?

Wilf Fenten

Environmental Advisor



In response, Karl Battersby, corporate director for business and environmental services, North Yorkshire County Council, said: "We have to balance the safety of road users and pedestrians with environmental considerations, recognising that verges are important for wildlife.

"The B6479 near Horton in Ribblesdale is part of a trial to reduce the width of verge cutting. The timings of the cuts are a balance between ensuring cuts are carried out at visibility locations and trying our best to encourage wildflower growth. This year we have moved our first cut to mid-June. For cost effectiveness and to improve efficiency we carry out visibility and swathe cuts as part of the same programme. In line with our verge management policy we typically carry out two cuts per year in areas with a speed limit greater than 40mph.

"We are looking at other ways to improve the biodiversity of our verges, including the removal of grass cuttings which will improve growing conditions for wildflowers and looking at the timing and frequency of the cuts that we carry out."