Our main reason for managing vegetation is to enable safe use of the highway. However, we also recognise the value that the vegetation for which we are responsible has to the landscape, to wildlife and to people’s enjoyment of their environment. With this in mind we maintain vegetation in a manner that is sensitive to nature conservation whenever possible. Individual trees are often prominent features so generally we leave them alone unless they become dangerous or an unacceptable nuisance. We time trimming sensitively, to try not to disturb resident animals and birds.
Particularly on rural roads, we have to balance conservation and keeping a rural appearance with maintaining a clearance for large vehicles such as buses and lorries.
Highway verges are important flower-rich grassland habitats. In order to manage verges for the benefit of wildlife, we have identified certain verges that support species of national importance. We have designated these as ‘Roadside Verges of Ecological Importance.’ and manage them in a special way to benefit plants and animals such as butterflies, small mammals and birds whilst fulfilling highway safety requirements. Normally this means that we adjust the timing or frequency of grass-cutting to allow wild flowers to flower and set seed.
Funds for day-to-day management of vegetation on the highway are limited. Normally we cannot fund substantial planting of new trees and shrubs although we try to replace trees that are lost. However, often trees, shrubs and grass are planted on the highway as part of new housing developments. Also we can support new planting by the issue of cultivation licences. These allow applicants to plant and maintain trees, shrubs or grass in specified areas of highways, subject to conditions.