HIGHWAYS GRASS VERGE AND HEDGE MAINTENANCE
To consider a report by the Head of Highways and Environmental Services (copy enclosed) on the Council’s policy with regard to verge/hedge maintenance and pesticide application.
10.55 am – 11.25 am
[This item was brought forward on the agenda with the consent of the Chair.]
Councillor Tony Thomas, Lead Member for Housing and Communities and the Head of Highways and Environmental Services presented the report (previously circulated) on the Council’s policy with regard to verge/hedge maintenance and pesticide application. The report had been requested by the Committee following previous consideration of the matter in February 2021.
The report and appendices had been presented to enable the Committee to discuss the current policy and approach being taken ahead of the new financial year. The Committee’s attention was drawn to the appendices which detailed the policy on maintenance of highway verges together with the position on the use of pesticides for the purpose of weed control, and included a Welsh Government Information Note on the use of Glyphosate-based products to which the Council’s position was aligned. Reference was made to the climate change and ecological ambitions of the Council and whilst there was currently no viable alternative to using pesticides in weed spraying treatments, work was continuing to source potential future alternatives and move towards those ecological ambitions.
During debate members raised a number of issues with the Lead Member, Head of Service and the Works Unit Manager who responded as follows –
· whilst not directly related to the report the Head of Service responded to issues raised by Councillors Emrys Wynne and Bobby Feeley regarding safety concerns over a pathway along the A525 between Cantaba Farm and Jericho Lane, Ruthin. He advised that no significant works had been carried out pending consideration of the site as an active travel route. However, following the decision that it would not be suitable for active travel, plans had been made to improve the situation. He also highlighted the challenges of prioritising financial resources available to best meet demands across the highway network and associated footpaths and confirmed he, and relevant officers, would be willing to discuss those issues further with members, either through the Member Area Groups, the scrutiny process, or other forum as appropriate
· reiterated there was currently no viable alternative to using chemicals to treat weeds on the highway network but work was continuing in that regard. Discussions were ongoing with the Council’s existing contractor who was undertaking trials of various potential alternatives on behalf of an English local authority in order to remove the emphasis and reliance on glyphosate, and work was also ongoing with Countryside Services with a view to identifying trial sites in the county for potentially suitable alternatives such as acetic acid
· weed spraying treatments had been reduced over recent years from four times a year to twice a year with most spraying limited to urban areas within a 30 mph zone, and concentrations of glyphosate were strictly limited to 300ml per litre. The use of glyphosate had been approved and weed spraying was carried out in accordance with current guidelines and constraints. It was noted that neighbouring authorities also used glyphosate for the treatment of weeds
· discussions had been held with Natural Resources Wales previously with regard to the use of chemicals and impact on watercourses with no concerns raised given the Council’s compliance with the requirements governing that use
· noted problems experienced the previous year in some urban areas overgrown with weeds with specific reference to Princes Street, Rhyl and an explanation of the timescale and programme of work for weed spraying was provided with much dependent on weather conditions, and lessons had been learnt from the previous season in terms of the timing of weed spraying for best effect
· officers responded to suggestions for more engagement with members and the community to help identify and address problematic areas at an earlier stage, advising that the Works Unit provided regular updates to members and as much notice as possible was given as to the programme of works for weed spraying and grass cutting together with the cyclical maintenance carried out on the A525 and A547 – members were encouraged to contact the Works Unit Manager in the event those communications were not being received
· in terms of supervision and ensuring the quality of work met the necessary standards, the areas were inspected by Street Scene Co-ordinators and there was close working with the grass cutting and weed spraying contractors
· given that weed spraying treatments had reduced from four to twice a year in order to reduce the amount of chemicals used and help meet the Council’s ecological ambitions, it was expected that there would be an increase in issues associated with the control of weeds
· as a bee keeper Councillor Rhys Thomas had been satisfied with the use of glyphosate as a systemic herbicide which was effective in the control of weeds and indicated that he was happy to accept the report and its contents; he did not consider it necessary to receive a report back on an annual basis as had been the case previously but only if there was some major change within the policy
· Councillor Rachel Flynn referred to issues associated with Japanese knotweed near the railway line in Prestatyn and she asked that officers take up the issue directly with Network Rail as the organisation responsible; the Chair suggested Councillor Flynn could also look to approach Network Rail directly in that regard
· Council owned hedges were cut to the terms within the policy and issues with privately owned hedges were acknowledged which were the landowners responsibility – the Council had been actively involved in following up concerns raised in that regard and contacting landowners to resolve those issues
· the cut specifications and standards had been set out within the policy and there was discretion to undertake a greater cut than the 1m wide swathe from the edge of the road at specific locations, predominately for health and safety reasons such as ensuring visibility was maintained for road users and pedestrians, and inspections were carried out on a regular basis to mitigate any concerns; in many areas it was not necessary to cut back more than 1m which was in keeping with the work on the wildflower sites and biodiversity
· highlighted the current management arrangements for the wildflower meadow project to allow for growth and development in order to maximise biodiversity benefits and to arrange cutting within a specific time period towards the end of August/early September – the Chair felt it would be beneficial to cut back those areas more regularly than every 3 years to enhance the appearance of the sites and ensure they were more aesthetically pleasing
· there were currently 75 wildflower meadow sites across the county which would soon be increased to 105 sites, managed in conjunction with Countryside Services, with a large proportion of roadside verges included in the project. Welsh Government funding had been secured to procure specific equipment to cut and collect the grass for those sites and enable other wildflowers to flourish – that work would be undertaken late August/early September.
The Committee, having considered the information supplied in the report, its appendices, along with that provided during the course of the discussion –
RESOLVED to endorse the Council’s current policies and approach in relation to highways grass verge and hedge maintenance as well as pesticide application.
- Highways Grass Verge Report 100122, item 5. PDF 142 KB
- Highways Grass Verge Report 100121 - App 1, item 5. PDF 391 KB
- Highway Grass Verge Maintenance Report 100222 - App 2, item 5. PDF 537 KB
- Highway Grass Verge Maintenance Report 100222 - App 3 docx, item 5. PDF 2 MB