O’Dowd announces new approach to road verge management to protect the environment

Date published: 03 October 2022


Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd has announced a new approach to verge management across the road network to protect the environment.

Minister John O’Dowd with Jennifer Fulton CEO of Ulster Wildlife

The Department has a duty to maintain the road network and to cut grass to prevent overgrowth onto footways and carriageways, and to prevent the obstruction of sightlines and traffic signs. 

The new approach increases the Department’s 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. 

From next year a single swathe will be cut along the verges on the strategic road network twice per year. Other areas that are needed for road safety purposes, such as for sight lines at junctions, will also be cut at least twice each year. A similar approach will be introduced on heavier trafficked rural roads and on lighter trafficked rural roads, one cut will be carried out late in the growing season. 

John O’ Dowd said:

“We all have a responsibility to protect the environment and it is something I take very seriously. My Department is responsible for the maintenance of the public road network and annually cuts about 45,000km of grass verges. 

"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.

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

"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.” 

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.  Some road verges need to be cut for safety but 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. It is very encouraging to see DfI taking positive steps to manage its land for nature.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. Additional cuts at specific locations may be required, to maintain sightlines for road safety purposes.
  2. The delivery of new major road projects, such as the A6 Dungiven to Drumahoe Dualling scheme includes the provision of approximately 200,000m2 of wildflower seeding.
  3. The Department is keen to replicate the ‘Don’t Mow Let It Grow’ project which has been delivered in conjunction with Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council and others. The three-year pilot ‘Don’t Mow Let It Grow’ project involved the management of 20 road verges along with 18 Council park grassland areas.
  4. All media queries should be directed to the Department for Infrastructure Press Office at: press.office@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk
  5. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.
  6. Follow the Department on Twitter @deptinfra and on Facebook @DepartmentforInfrastructure

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