The County Council has a statutory responsibility for the maintenance and improvement of Hampshire's highway network (motorways and trunk roads are managed by the Highways Agency).
This includes the management of open areas within the highway boundary and amounts to about 10,000 km of road, ranging from rural lanes to major arterial routes.
In all its highways work, the Council's policy is to protect and enhance biodiversity.
With regard to new schemes, the Ecology Group is consulted at an early stage to assess the environmental impact of proposals. Information and advice is provided to project managers and engineers, in order to ensure negative impacts are avoided or minimised through appropriate survey, design and mitigation.
Whilst maintenance works are less likely to have a significant effect on biodiversity, the Ecology Group supports the Highways Group in the planning and execution of these works.
The Highways Maintenance Management Plan (HMMP) contains policies and procedures for the management of vegetation within the highways boundary, including one to protect and enhance biodiversity.
The maintenance of road verges is an integral part of the highways programme.
Roadside verges are an important wildlife habitat. In some places they represent the only remnants of the type of flower-rich grassland once widespread in lowland Britain.
Managed appropriately, the verges can support a wide range of plants and animals. With around 10,000km of highways in Hampshire, this presents approximately 13,000 hectares of roadside verge habitat, equivalent to 3% of the county's land area.
The County Council is responsible for the management of the verges on all roads in the county, except motorways and major trunk roads. An on-going survey programme is being carried out of many of the verges to establish their value for biodiversity. Approximately 15 to 20 road verges are surveyed each year.
The Ecology Group advises the County Council's highways officers on the management of these ecologically important road verges. This is to ensure there is maximum benefit for biodiversity whilst fulfilling the necessary road safety requirements, with particular emphasis on the adjustment of cutting regimes to allow wild plants to flower and set seed.
Around 224 Road Verges of Ecological Importance (RVEIs) have been identified most of which are under special management.