Northern Ireland news

Chris Hazzard backs roadside efforts to bolster native flowers

DUP councillors in Lisburn and Castlereagh Council who last year took it on themselves to cut roadside verges

STORMONT'S new infrastructure minister has backed calls to bolster native wildflowers through the environmentally-friendly management of roadside verges.

Chris Hazzard welcomed the success of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Don’t Mow – Let It Grow initiative and said his department would be happy to work with other local authorities who wish to adopt a similar policy.

"Undoubtedly the project has a positive impact on local biodiversity and brings benefits for rare and vulnerable native flora and fauna and provide much needed habitat for pollinating insects," he told The Irish News.

Last year, budget cuts meant Transport NI was unable to fulfil many of its road maintenance responsibilities, including grass cutting.

While the failure to keep many verges neat and tidy was criticised by some politicians, Mr Hazzard insists he is not endorsing a policy of neglect but rather a more sympathetic approach to roadside maintenance.

"Of course, not all verges are suitable and there are a range of factors to be considered, most importantly public safety," he said.

"I would clarify that it is not the case that verges will not be cut but rather the time of year when they are cut – visibility splays will continue to be cut as normal so there is no compromise on public safety."

The Sinn Féin minister said he would be "interested to see what lessons can be learned" from the Don't Mow – Let it Grow pilot.

He said Transport NI ?would ensure public safety is not compromised and that all roadside verges and sightline grass would be cut at least once between April-October.

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