Highway Maintenance

The Management of Highway Verges

1. Introduction

1.1 The highway verge comprises of the generally unmetalled parts of the highway within the limits of the defined highway.

1.2 Highway verges are generally untrafficked although they may be used by pedestrians and equestrians for passage.

1.3 Highway verges contain much of street furniture and signing, as well as trees and shrubs.

1.4 The primary maintenance obligation is to ensure the safety of the highway user by ensuring that visibility is not restricted and verges are free from obstructions and without defects which would be detrimental to the user. Protection and enhancement of biodiversity - it is also recognised that verges are important sites for rare flora and fauna and some areas are identified as special interest and receive special treatments.

1.5 To achieve these objectives the County Council has adopted the following policies.

2. Relevant Legislation

2.1 The maintenance of the highway verge and regard to nature conservation is associated with satisfying the County Council’s statutory obligations primarily under Sections 47, 58, 71, 96 & 130 of the Highways Act 1980.

3. Policy

3.1 Inspection of Highway Verges

Highway verges shall be inspected in accordance with the frequencies outlined in the Policy for Highway Inspections.

3.2 Embankments and Sides of Cuttings

Highway verge slopes shall be maintained to preserve their stability and prevent damage by erosion.

Where signs of erosion, slope failure slides and falls have been identified through the Highway Inspection system, they should be prioritised and regularly monitored until the remedial action has been completed.

3.3 Siding Out

Highway verges shall be maintained to prevent the encroachment of verge soil and growth onto the carriageway and footway.

Where siding out has been identified this shall be carried out under cyclic maintenance at a frequency not greater than once every three years. Siding out shall also be carried out as required before routine maintenance works such as surface dressing, edge lining and special maintenance schemes.

3.4 Vehicle Overrun

From time to time, accident damage and vehicular overrun may cause rutting and erosion to the highway verge.

Where verge damage has been identified this shall be prioritised prior to remedial works being carried out.

3.5 Biodiversity

The County Council recognises that highway verges can support habitats and species of nature conservation value. Some areas are specially designated for their biodiversity.

Advice will be sought from the County Ecologist when any of the following sites are likely to be affected by maintenance works.

  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)

  • Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) and

  • Road Verges of Ecological Importance (RVEIs).

Consent from English Nature will be obtained before undertaking any works which are likely to damage the special interest feature of an SSSI. Specific agreements between English Nature and the County Council for maintenance works within particularly sensitive sites such as the New Forest shall be followed.

3.6 Trees, Shrubs and Hedges

3.6.1
The County Council as the Highway Authority shall attend to trees, hedges and shrubs on the highway to abate a statutory nuisance or a hazard or to carry out remedial work to make good damage or decay or deformed growth. Such work should be carried out in accordance with the Procedure ‘Arboricultural Works’.

3.6.2
The County Council will carry out proactive arboricultural inspections of a prioritised  portion of the network programmed over a period of time in keeping with current codes of practice. This is to be reviewed in line with current industry and risk management guidelines.

3.6.3
Where a tree, hedge or shrub comprises a significant local amenity, and is considered as requiring removal for any reason, other than an emergency, this should be referred to the Arboricultural Officer for advice, taking into account its amenity value.  

3.6.4
Where a tree identified as a potential hazard is considered likely to support bats or other protected mammals or birds advice from the County Ecologist will be sought before works start.

3.6.5
The County Council will carry out other work such as pruning to reduce shade or to remove branches overhanging adjacent property only in exceptional circumstances.

3.6.6
The County Council shall cut back all hedges and shrubs that are the responsibility of the Highway Authority to ensure  appropriate visibility  and sight lines and that road signs are not obscured. Hedge cutting shall be undertaken a minimum of once per annum on rural roads, This comprises of the classified and unclassified road network (maintenance hierarchy class 2,3A,3B,4A,4B) The hedge cutting shall be undertaken in the  late autumn or  winter to accord with the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.

3.6.7
No hedge or shrub "growing in, or adjacent to, any common land, protected land, or land used for agriculture or forestry or keeping of horses, ponies or donkeys" shall be removed without seeking the consent of the Local Planning Authority (LPA).

3.6.8
Where an obstruction to a sight line, street light, road sign etc or a potential hazard (as defined in the appropriate Procedure) has been identified these shall be prioritised to allow works to be undertaken as part of the cyclic maintenance programme.

3.6.9
The County Council may, in exceptional circumstances, consent to additional maintenance of a limited number of ornamental beds in high profile public places. Maintenance shall include weed control and pruning.

3.6.10
Any person(s) responsible for the design of a new planting scheme on highway land shall seek the approval of the County Council’s Arboriculture Officer and the appropriate Local Highway Office.

3.7 Grass Cutting

The County Council as the Highway Authority shall cut highway verges to prevent obstruction of sight lines ensuring the adequate visibility of traffic signs and oncoming traffic at junctions.

3.7.1 Urban Grass Cutting

This section includes roads and footways designated as urban including village roads that are urban in character. The cutting regime shall be organised so that the grass does not exceed 150mm in height.

3.7.1.1 Carriageways and Footways

All verges adjacent to the edges of urban carriageways and footways shall be cut over their full width a minimum of five times per annum for the purposes of maintaining safety, preventing obstructions of sight lines, inhibiting the growth of injurious weeks, maintaining a tidy appearance and to prevent encroachment.

3.7.1.2 Strimming

The cutting of highway verges adjacent to the edges of urban carriageways and footways shall include strimming around all street furniture and trees a minimum of five times per annum commencing concurrently with each cut and completed within the same cutting period.

3.7.1.3 Removal of Clippings

The cutting of urban highway verges shall include the removal of clippings from all metalled surfacings commencing concurrently with each cut and complete within the same period.

3.7.2 Rural Grass Cutting

3.7.2.1 For the purpose of this policy, rural roads shall include routes that are not urban. The cutting regime shall be organised so that the grass does not exceed 260mm in height above the adjacent carriageway level.

3.7.2.2 Carriageways

All verges adjacent to the edges of rural carriageways and footways shall have a 1 metre swathe cut a minimum of two times per annum for the purposes of maintaining safety, preventing obstructions of sight lines, inhibiting growth of injurious weeds, to prevent encroachment by overhanging vegetation and to provide a pedestrian refuge and conserve the natural habitat and plant species.

3.7.2.3 Rural Footways

All rural footways shall have a 1 metre swathe immediately adjacent to either edge of the footway cut a minimum of three times per annum to ensure that the available footway width is not reduced by overhanging vegetation.

3.7.2.4 Wide Flat Verges to the Back of the Fence/Hedge Line including Ditches

Over a three year cycle all remaining verge areas to the edge of rural carriageways and footways shall be cut back to the highway boundary (i.e. fence or hedge lines) a minimum of once in that period to prevent them from becoming overgrown.

3.7.2.5 Significant Slopes

All significant slopes (greater than 2 metres in height or a gradient of 1 in 2) within the highway shall have a 2 metre swathe cut immediately adjacent to the carriageway. The swathe shall be cut a minimum of two times per annum to prevent encroachment by overhanging vegetation.

3.7.2.6 Junctions and Bends

At all junctions in rural roads where the verge widths permit, an additional area shall be cut on either side of the junction a minimum of two times per annum to ensure that minor road drivers have adequate sight lines in each direction to see oncoming major road traffic in time for them to manoeuvre safely. Sight lines may require additional cuts during June/July.

The area cut shall be a triangle from the edge of the carriageway to a distance of 4.5 metres, on ‘A’ & ‘B’ class roads, 2.5 metres on all other roads where the width permits, along the centre of the minor road tapering to the edge of the carriageway at a distance 200m on ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads, 100m on all other roads preceding and proceeding the junction.

Where the verge width is less than 4.5 metres, the offset from the edge of the carriageway may be reduced accordingly.

On the inside of all bends, where verge widths permit a 3 metres swathe on ‘A’ and ‘B’ class roads and 1 metre swathe on all other roads over the length of the bend additional area shall be cut a minimum of two times per annum to ensure that adequate sight stopping distances are maintained. Sight lines may require additional cuts during June/July.

3.7.2.7 Road Signs and Milestones

On the approach to all road signs and milestones, an additional area shall be cut a minimum of two times per annum to ensure that adequate sight lines are maintained in accordance with TD 42/95. Sight lines may require additional cuts during June/July.

The area cut shall be from the edge of the carriageway to the signpost furthest from the carriageway tapering to the edge of the carriageway at a distance of 150 m on ‘A’ and ‘B’ class roads and 75m on all other roads preceding the sign.

3.7.3 Private Drives

At the request of the owner/occupier the need to cut grass in the vicinity of private drives shall be considered by the Local Highway Unit. Where there is a significant risk to owners, an additional area may be cut on either side of the driveway a minimum of two times per annum to ensure that adequate sight lines are maintained in each direction to see oncoming major road traffic.

Version No:    2.0

Effective From:    12/03/2010

If copied or printed, this document should be treated as uncontrolled and correct only at the date it was copied or printed.