Highway grass cutting instigates debate

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council is now well into the highway grass cutting programme after the start of the grass cutting season was interrupted because of Covid-19.

Due to the recent sunshine and rain, the grass has grown rapidly and has become very long in some areas.  Council teams are working as quickly as possible to complete the first cut, but due to the length of the grass this is taking longer than usual. 

The resumption of grass cutting has prompted a range of strongly held views by local residents.

On one side are people who want to see the grass cut either because they strongly believe the uncut grass is detrimental to how the borough appears or because they suffer from hay fever and other allergies exacerbated by grass pollen. On the other side there is a growing number of residents robustly calling on the council not to cut the grass as often or as rigorously in order to encourage, wild flowers, pollinators and wildlife.

Councillor Neil Dallen, Chair of the Environment and Safe Communities Committee, said “we always get feedback when we start cutting the grass and this year’s views have highlighted the positive shift in thinking that has been taking place about the importance of protecting the environment and promoting biodiversity.”

The borough council usually cuts the verges up to twelve times a year.  Four of these are paid for by Surrey County Council as the local highway authority. The additional cuts are carried out by the borough, as in previous years residents have been keen to have short, neat verges. 

This year the council has received many requests to keep the verges longer as people have enjoyed seeing the emergence of wildflowers particularly along some of the more rural verges.

Councillor Dallen added “The council already do a lot to maintain and enhance biodiversity within the borough and we recognise that the roadside verges are often home to a wide range of plants, insects and other animals.  With this in mind, we are currently investigating ways to improve highway verge biodiversity in future years.

9 thoughts on “Highway grass cutting instigates debate”

  1. Yes great well done Epsom & Ewell Council! Our verges were green and full of life now because of the cutting and lack of rain they look like dead dried up plains! A fire hazard surely when people throw their cigarette butts! Move with the times, most people want a green new world and you can do your bit by helping nature!

  2. I’d suggest the borough team up with Nescot and their animal husbandry department. Like the Royal Parks, the use of animals to keep certain areas of grassland in the borough tidy would be a great idea. This would not only reduce costs, utilise a more ecological method of management rather than petrol guzzling mowers, strimmers and blowers, spewing out toxic fumes. Also the benefit to students at the college, as well as the local community, would be immense if it could be organised that small herds of sheep, goats, or cattle could graze in some selected spaces in the borough. Rather left field, but is perfectly viable.

    1. Yes, having sheep walk out in front of cars on the Ewell Bypass would make driving way more fun.

  3. Please don’t cut the verges, the wildlife will thank you. Spend our money on something useful.

  4. Councillor Dallen sees a positive shift toward preserving our wildflowers – this is an encouraging development. Amenity turf is always in better health with a mixture of flowers. Some of us would like to see a full on meadow, some of us like things neat and tidy. I think there is a way to see both sides. https://www.wildflower.co.uk/lw12-low-growing-100.html
    Where I live we have spring bulbs on our verges, around the lamp posts/phone poles and maintain two small areas for wildflowers. The guys who come to mow the street are very careful and the neighbours who fall into both “neat” and “wild” camps very supportive.

  5. Leaving verges to grow good for wildlife especially insects and butterflies. Spend money on essentials instead.

  6. If it is to be done, could the standards be improved? The grass outside our house looks like a 2year old has been let loose after being in sweet shop using a pair of blunt child safe scissors!

  7. I am all for the wildlife in all it forms however overgrown trees bushes etc prevent clear sight of signage and especially traffic lights in instance chessington rd to Horton areas in particular

  8. Please leave the verges as biodiversity corridors and don’t cut. Wildlife needs this and we need wildlife. We inhabit a mutually beneficial biosphere.

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