Boosting biodiversity with wilder verges and flowery havens

We will be allowing the grasses and plants to grow and flower, and potentially enhancing them with native, locally appropriate wildflowers.  

This will help to increase biodiversity by providing pollen and nectar sources, as well as habitats for insects and wildlife.   

Why manage grass verges and smaller areas?  

Grass verges and roadside nature reserves can be an oasis for nature. They are home to almost half of the UK’s wildflower species (that’s 720 different flowers).  

Organisations such as Plantlife and The Wildlife Trust, have undertaken extensive research, stating that thousands of miles of road verges need to become a key part of an essential national Nature Recovery Network, connecting town and countryside, and joining up vital places for wildlife.  

Biodiversity is an integral part of our city and this change in management will look to enable increased plant and insect life on some of our smaller grassed areas and verges throughout the city.   

How will this new approach be carried out?  

Maintaining high quality open spaces is vital to the city. Areas such as these contribute to economic growth, urban regeneration and neighbourhood renewal, enhancing our city landscape, while making it an attractive destination to live and visit.

A ‘Wilder Verges’ map, identifying grass verges with the highest biodiversity potential has been established and will be closely monitored throughout the trial and signage will be installed in chosen areas.

Carefully establishing the correct timescales for cutting is essential, and in turn, will provide natural wildlife habitats, while encouraging biodiversity to thrive.

The natural management of the areas will mean they are mowed less frequently.

This will help us to understand how it enables wildflowers to grow, increases biodiversity and cuts the carbon costs of repeat mowing.

What does the new scheme involve?  

Throughout the trial the verges will be left unmown from March/April through to August/September during the main botanical flowering season. It will be cut either once or twice during the later Summer/Autumn. 

The two final cuts will ensure the site is maintained short at the end of the year in preparation for the next botanical flowering season and signage will be displayed in these areas to notify the community too.  

There will be some areas that will need to continue to be mowed on a more frequent basis for safety reasons, particularly where long grass can cause obstructions.

We will also be seeking help from volunteers in sowing wildflowers and planting in areas where these are deemed appropriate, will stand a good chance to establish, and will help better the overall biodiversity by increasing floral diversity. 

Councillor Amy Heley, co-chair of the Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee said: “Through our consultation in 2017, 70% of residents told us they thought that grass verges should be cut less.   

“We also found that trees, grass and wildlife represented three of the four things that are important to the community of Brighton & Hove.

“By mowing less, we will positively enhance biodiversity, including rare species of plants and animals.

“Mowing has been reduced in a couple of areas within Hollingdean already, and the feedback received has been positive.

“The research and the careful implementation and monitoring of the Wilder Verges map, we’ll have evidence to show whether the trial achieves the improvements to biodiversity we’re aiming for.”

What are the anticipated outcomes?  

Through careful implementation of this 3-year trial it is anticipated that this will positively impact our environment, leading to:  

  • Increased flora and fauna, encouraging growth of wildflowers   
  • Increased species of wildlife
  • Improved flood alleviation as longer grass has greater water storage capacity  
  • Improved pollution filtration from an improved root structure  
  • Reduced fossil fuel consumption  
  • Reduced noise pollution  
  • Reduced fuel pollution into the atmosphere 
  • Reduced vibration impact on operations staff  

The correct equipment is essential to ensure we are able to maintain the grassed areas and verges to a naturally high standard and a recent Carbon Neutral Fund allocation of £80,000 will enable us to procure electric ride on mowers and cutting heads especially designed for long grass.  

As every season is different, introducing this pilot programme for the natural management of grass verges and some smaller grassed areas will enable us to establish the impact of this new approach. 

If you'd like to find out more about this exciting initiative, please click here to take a look at our Wilder Verges Project 


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