Grass cutting and weed control

Highway grass cutting

Why we do it

As highway authority, our primary aim is to meet our statutory duty to maintain the highway. The primary reason for grass cutting is for safety and to facilitate unobstructed free movement along the highway and it will, therefore include the clearing of sight lines and obstruction to footways and carriageways. However, we recognise the importance of highway grassed areas in the natural environment.

In response to this the cutting regime in rural areas has been reviewed and amended, in consultation with Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre (HBIC) and the conservation charity, Plantlife UK. Whilst there are still, inevitably some compromises, it aims as far as is currently practically and operationally possible, to achieve a balance between promoting and supporting biodiversity with the needs of road users and efficient use of resources.

Roadside grass cutting in rural areas

The current approach to grass cutting in rural areas is:

  • A single swathe cut (one metre in width) on the rural network each year, to be complete prior to the end of June. This is to provide a safe refuge for walkers and horse riders where there are no footways, so that they may easily step off the carriageway and onto the verge, out of the way of oncoming vehicles
  • Cutting of visibility splays at junctions, roundabouts and bends – at any time during the season and as often as may be desired. The purpose of this is to maintain all important sightlines around bends and at junctions
  • A cut of the central reservations on dual carriageways; either once per year in May, or twice per year in April and September. The purpose of this is to facilitate the routine inspection and tensioning of the safety barrier
  • A full width cut back of highway verges is then undertaken in the autumn (starting in September), on alternate years. This is intended to restrict the growth of trees, brambles and gorse, etc, which if allowed to grow unchecked, would impact on the biodiversity and is based on the advice of Plantlife UK and HBIC

Apart from visibility splays no cutting is undertaken on highway verges during the months of July and August as per the advice from Plantlife UK, to support and promote the growth of wild flowers and an increase in biodiversity.

In addition certain areas of verge have been given a special designation by HBIC of ‘Road Verges of Ecological Importance’ (RVEIs), based on the presence of particular important species. The treatment of these RVEIs is for them to be cut either once per year in April or September or twice per year in April and September, dependent on the species that are present. Again this is aimed at creating the conditions to support the species of interest, with some 40 Hectares of road verges currently being managed in this way.

Roadside grass cutting in urban areas

In urban areas the local district council carries out the grass cutting on roadside verges on our behalf. The purpose is to ensure the grass is suitably managed to prevent the encroachment of vegetation and the obstruction of sight lines or access, much as for the rural network, and to maintain the general appearance of the street environment. The district council can integrate this work with grass cutting it carries out on other areas of public open space for amenity purposes and can choose how many cuts it carries out, subject to a minimum standard that we specify. A number are now reviewing their regimes with a view to the rewilding of certain areas and cutting less frequently.

Please contact the relevant council with enquiries about roadside grass cutting in urban areas.

The grass cutting service as a whole (both rural and urban), is being kept under review with ongoing dialogue with Plantlife UK and HBIC and with trials of alternative approaches such as ‘cut and collect’ being pursued, aimed at improving our contribution to supporting biodiversity on our highway verges.

Request for changes to grass cutting standards, fewer cuts or for planting in verges

As a resident, local council or other organisation you can apply to us to maintain areas of roadside verge yourself. For more information visit the Apply for a licence or consent to plant alongside the highway page.

Unlicensed interference with roadside verges is not permitted.

Highway weed control

As highway authority, our primary focus is our statutory duty to maintain the highway. Our primary reasons for carrying out weed control are to limit damage to the fabric and to facilitate unobstructed free movement along the highway. Our aim is to control the growth of weeds, not necessarily to maintain a weed-free street-scene.

We carry out a programme of weed control on hard surfaced areas of the highway, including footways and kerb-lines, which can be damaged by excessive weed growth. The treatment is undertaken by a specialist contractor, employing appropriately trained personnel. The herbicide used is Glyphosate, which has no residual action and which remains an approved chemical. The herbicide is applied only to the weeds, not as a blanket spray, using a Controlled Droplet Applicator. This minimises the amount of chemical applied and all but eliminates any issues of spray drift.

The standard frequency of treatment is one visit per year to treat any weeds that are present at the time of the visit. Any weeds that might appear after the treatment will not routinely be treated that year.

We do not treat grassed areas or areas that are not hard-surfaced, except where known occurrences of invasive weed exist.

In the following districts the district council carries out the weed control on the highway (except for invasive weeds) on our behalf: Basingstoke and Deane, Eastleigh, Gosport, Hart, Havant and New Forest. The district council can choose the frequency of weed treatment, subject to our minimum standard. Please contact the relevant council with enquiries about weed control in these areas.

For the time being, the controlled use of an approved non-residual herbicide is considered to be the most effective way of dealing with weeds on hard surfaced areas of the highway.

We have separate arrangements to treat invasive and injurious weeds on the highway, such as Japanese Knotweed, which we are required to control.

Service standards

Our service standards for grass cutting and weed control as described above, are derived from a decision by Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment, which you can view here:

Council meeting agenda item detail