MP calls campaign for better management of IW verges

Continuing his campaign for the protection of wildflowers on Island verges, MP Bob Seely met with a number of stakeholders at a workshop last month (August 22) to discuss how road verges can be sustainably managed.

Representatives from IW AONB, IW Association of Local Councils, Island Roads, IW Council and Plantlife - a British conservation charity working to save threatened wild flowers - came together to discuss ways to manage road verges to encourage biodiversity and enhance their role as wildlife corridors whilst ensuring the safety of road users.

Bob, who wrote to the IW Council in June last year asking it to cut roadside grass verges more sensitively, said: “Thank you to the organisers of this event. Verges act as mini-meadows providing vital wildlife corridors between towns and villages. In the past, verges have been cut in a way that kills wildflowers during flowering season and replaces them with thick grass that needs more cutting.

“It’s really important that we protect our beautiful wildflowers on the Island. Not only do they enhance the beauty of our Island, but they also provide a vital habitat for wildlife.

Bob said that tens of thousands of pounds had already been saved by cutting verges less.

“I am keen to see a partnership approach being taken to the management of our verges.”

Bob said changes he would like to see included:

  • More ‘no-cut’ areas to be identified by Island Roads, working with the Isle of Wight Council and parish councils. Clearly this is dependent on safety.
  • With the money saved, the Council agree to support Island Roads in the purchasing of specialist equipment to ensure best practise in verge cutting, which will result in easier and more environmentally sensitive cutting by collecting the cuttings and promoting wildflower growth.

“Less frequent cutting will improve the beauty of Island verges for residents and visitors, encourage pollinators and improve biodiversity.”

Bob also said that an education plan was needed to win support for the new policy and to explain why wildflower verges are beautiful.

AONB Lead Officer, Richard Grogan, said: “The Isle of Wight AONB as manager of the Local Records Centre and the lead partner in the Isle of Wight Biosphere are keen to see the Island’s wildlife thrive in a landscape dominated by human influences.

“The management of our road verges as wildlife corridors highlights a very visible way local parishes, the local authority and concerned organisations and individuals can work together to maintain our grassland verges for wildflowers, pollinators and small mammals as well as provide safe and colourful roadsides for residents and tourists to enjoy”.

As part of its contract with the IW Council, Island Roads is responsible for cutting and maintaining around 1,350,000 square metres of highway verges across the Island.

Bob is calling for a meeting between Island Roads and the IW Council to work together, in consultation with others, to agree a sustainable management plan for grass verges.