Northern Ireland news

Roadside grass cutting to be reduced to protect environment

Infrastructure minister John O’Dowd pictured with Jennifer Fulton, CEO of Ulster Wildlife, after he announced a new approach to verge management across
Connla Young

Infrastructure minister John O'Dowd has revealed plans to reduce roadside cutting in a bid to protect the environment.

From next year a single swathe will be cut along the verges on the strategic road network twice a year.

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) is currently responsible for cutting grass to prevent overgrowth onto footways and carriageways and to stop obstruction of sightlines and traffic signs.

The department said the new approach increases its focus on protecting wildlife and promoting biodiversity when managing roadside verges and "will support the actions needed to comply with the Climate Change Bill passed by the assembly earlier this year".

Mr O'Dowd said his department cuts about 45,000km of verges every year.

The Stormont minister said "we all have a responsibility to protect the environment" adding that "it is something I take very seriously".

"This new approach aims to maintain the right balance between road safety and the control of grass and weeds while achieving a greater focus on environmental protection," he said.

"I am determined to do all that I can to protect and create important habitats for wildlife, and the change that I am introducing will deliver on the commitments of my department in support of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan and is consistent with the aims of the National Pollinator Strategy."

Mr O'Dowd said the challenges faced by nature must be tackled.

"The introduction of these new measures along with leaving suitable areas of grass uncut and the planting of wildflowers will help nature and protect the environment," he said.

"We must do all that we can to address the very real climate and nature emergency."

The minister urged others to follow his department's example.

"It is well known that many other people and organisations cut roadside grass and I would take this opportunity to encourage them to consider if this is necessary, and where possible they should adopt a similar approach to what I have introduced for the benefit of the environment,” he said.

Jennifer Fulton, CEO of Ulster Wildlife said: “With many pollinator species in decline, roadside verges can provide a home and important food source for pollinators such as bees, butterflies and many other species.

"If managed sensitively, our verges have the potential to create a valuable nature recovery network making a positive contribution to the biodiversity and climate crises.

"Management is key - cutting less and cutting later."

Ms Fulton said that while some road verges need to be cut for safety "it is important not to cut more frequently than necessary".

"Most verges are cut in summer but where possible cutting should be left until autumn when flowers have set seed and pollinators are less active," she said.

 

"It is very encouraging to see DfI taking positive steps to manage its land for nature.”

Northern Ireland news