Road Verge Biodiversity
Leicestershire County Council is working with a wide range of Parish Councils and local communities to change the management of selected road verges in order to improve their biodiversity value. NatureSpot is supporting the project by helping with wildlife surveys and by promoting the verges as featured Wild Places.
If you are interested in your parish taking part then please contact Lucie Hoelmer at Leicestershire County Council: Lucie.Hoelmer@leics.gov.uk
Frequently Asked Questions
Can we chose any verge in the Parish?
Your chosen verge must be:-
- LCC highway owned land.
- Minimum 2m width (front to rear)
- Within the 30/40mph limit.
- Not obstruct any sight lines (i.e. not on a junction or blind bend)
What is the cost of the Blue Heart sign?
Each verge joining the scheme will have one or more 'Blue Heart' signs erected to inform passers by that it is being managed as wildflower meadow for wildlife. There is no cost to Parishes for these signs. The authority has a budget to cover the cost of the blue heart and fixings which has worked out at £9.80 per item.
Any further hearts can be ordered direct from the BLUE website or even better make your own!
How much will it cost the Parish Council to establish the verge?
In the first instance, there is no cost whatsoever as you are being encouraged to leave the verge completely alone until it has been surveyed in June.
What is the cost of the NatureSpot surveys and who pays?
The cost of a full survey of the verge plus the creation of a Wild Place page for the verge on the NatureSpot website is £50.00 and this cost is being funded by LCC - there is no cost to the Parish Council.
Does the Parish Council have to pay for wildflower seeds?
Dependent on the outcome of the NatureSpot survey you may be encouraged to seed the area. If so you can apply for a SHIRE grant to cover the cost of seeds.
Where should we get the seeds from?
We recommend sowing with EM2 – General Purpose Meadow mixture, from Emorsgate Seeds. (4 grams per square metre) - £1.50/m2’
This mix is suitable for most soil types and contains native perennial wildflower and grass species that should help form a long-term sustainable meadow. The inclusion of Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthis minor) will help prevent vigorous grasses from taking over as it is a grass parasite.
Do not be tempted to sow just annuals! Whilst they can be colourful for a short period in the first year these plants will not generally re-appear in future years unless you start all over again each year - a very expensive option!
Also be very wary of seed sold as 'Butterfly and Pollinator' mixes. These often contain non-natives, many annuals and research has shown that they are often not as attractive to most insects as native wildflowers.
How should we prepare the ground
The NatureSpot survey will inform you what is already growing on the verge. If there is already a good diversity of wildflowers and grasses then you do not need to add seed - the changed mowing regime will be sufficient to create a wildlife-rich wildflower meadow. If the existing diversity is low then you may want to add additional species by sowing seed (see the recommendation above). You should not dig up the verge nor spray the existing plants. Instead you can scarify the ground to expose some bare soil before sowing. This gives the seed the opportunity to get established whilst retaining the existing mix of species already present.
Does the Parish Council have to pay for any grass cutting?
At the end of the Summer (August/September) a cut of the verge is required and the clippings need to be removed within 7 days. The cost of arranging this cut and removal of cuttings does fall to the Parish Council – this cannot be arranged by LCC.
Why can’t LCC cut it for us at the end of Summer?
To avoid confusion our Operatives will be instructed not to cut the verge at all. Also, as the clippings need removing the Parishes will have more control over it being done within the timescale if they organise the cut themselves.
Does the Parish have to pay for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The cost of PPE lies with the Parish, however, some Parishes have this already and some have had hi-viz waistcoats/jackets donated to them by local companies. Parishes could apply to the Shire Environment grant for financial support to buy PPE as part of the establishment of the project.
How should the Parish Council consult with residents and promote the scheme?
The fastest form of communication these days is social media. You are encouraged to publish your intentions for the verge on your Parish website or Facebook groups so residents in the village are aware of what you are trying to achieve. As each verge will be featured on its own 'Wild Place' page on the NatureSpot website you can also use this to explain/promote the project. Through NatureSpot you can also encourage local residents to get involved by submitting records of their own wildlife observations on the verge. The link to the NatureSpot page for each of your verges will be sent to you.
You can also attach a laminate sign in the vicinity of the verge to inform local people of the PC’s plans and intentions for the verge.
What happens if people don’t support it or complain about the way it looks?
Any complaints need to be dealt with by the Parish Council but hopefully early promotion will fend off any complaints. Note that Naturespot, the BLUE Campaign and LCC can provide facts to go into news articles and share your efforts on social media. Whilst some may perceive mown grass as being 'tidy' it is an effective desert for wildlife. We all have a responsibility to manage grasslands more creatively if we are are to address the biodiversity crisis.
What if it doesn’t ‘take off’ and we don’t have enough interest in the project?
Then you would simply contact the County Council to advise them that you no longer want to take part in the scheme. They will instruct their Operatives to cut it next time they are in the area. Please note that early notice of this may be helpful so that others, such as wildlife groups, could get involved with support.
How will the County Council make sure the verge doesn’t get cut by their grass cutting gangs?
Every effort will be made to make sure County Council Operatives are aware of the presence of the wildflower verge. They will highlight the areas on maps and the presence of the BLUE Heart should be a helpful indication.
Is this a money saving exercise for LCC?
At current rates, a 20 metre square verge costs LCC around 30p to cut on each visit, so six cuts per season gives a total cost is around £1.80 each year.
In the majority of cases, the LCC gangs will still be travelling to the village to cut other verges as normal so there is no immediate saving to LCC.