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CHANGES to Wiltshire Council’s approach to grass cutting – in a bid to keep highways safe, while at the same time allowing wildlife to thrive – have been welcomed by local wildlife campaigners.
Bowerhill resident, Sue Tweedie – who has often challenged Wiltshire Council about its tree felling, use of weedkiller, and grass verge management – has said that the council’s new modified approach is much improved.
But the campaigner has urged that more should be done to support the UK’s dwindling insect population.
The council has explained that on rural highways, to maintain safety, it is cutting visibility splays at junctions, some bends, and some ‘particularly narrow’ lanes; whilst remaining verges are left uncut until September, to enable wildflowers to set seed and spread more widely in the verge.
The council is also piloting a ‘cut and collect’ on the whole of the A350 in the county, to encourage wildflowers to grow.
And in urban areas, general grass areas are cut monthly from March-October, while in some amenity areas the council undertakes an environmental cut once in March, July and September, which they say gives native plants an opportunity to thrive.
The council is also currently running wildflower trials in amenity areas, also on a ‘cut and collect’ basis.
“This is much improved on the current schedule,” said Sue. “My question would be, when is this effective from?
“There has been totally unnecessary cutting of verges from Tilshead across to Chitterne. Swathes of pyramid orchids cut down before their natural life cycle is completed.
“Grasses are also vitally important for certain species – especially butterflies that complete their life cycle on grasses. Here at Bowerhill it was wonderful to see the butterflies flitting across the grasses and bees on the clover- that is until the mower went through.
“Leave more spaces for our insects, they desperately need our help and I strongly suggest anyone interested in wildlife to take a look at the Wiltshire Wildlife Trusts’ Action For Insects campaign. We cannot afford to dally on this issue, we must act now, not tomorrow, not next month, not next year, but now.”
Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for highways and street scene, cllr Dr Mark McClelland said, “We know that grass cutting is very important to the people of Wiltshire, and we regularly receive correspondence on the subject.
“This usually falls into three categories; people who are concerned about road safety issues caused by tall grass growth; people who want us to cut more as they see growth as untidy; and people who want us to cut less to allow wildflowers to grow.
“Balancing these viewpoints can be challenging, but through a range of measures and management techniques depending on the area, we are working to ensure we find the right balance between safety, tidiness and allowing wildflowers to flourish.
“Our grass cutting approach has been designed to provide a good balance to keep our green spaces safe and tidy, while at the same time giving wildflowers an opportunity to thrive. We also regularly review our grounds maintenance to make improvements, acting on feedback from our local communities about their area.”