Verge Management in the UK


Evidence submitted by Hathersage Rewilding Group, Hope Valley Climate Action, Derbyshire



Note: We are submitting this evidence under Economics and Biodiversity because biodiversity is essential to our food production and thus our economy. However, the points made below also apply to the issue of Pairing nature-based solutions to climate change with biodiversity. Because the health of the economy impacts on everyone's wellbeing, further declines in biodiversity will cause food plants to go unpollinated, the effects of which will be felt by all.


The Hathersage Rewilding Group have been engaged in local efforts to improve biodiversity through the improved management of road verges. We have focussed on two aspects to this work: the mowing regimes and weed control methods as used by Parish, District and County Councils.  In consulting with our councils in Hathersage, Derbyshire Dales and Derbyshire, we have been concerned to improve the prospects for biodiversity and wildlife in our local verges.


As far as mowing is concerned we have focussed on asking Councils to review their verge cutting regimes.  Do all verges need to be cut three times a year?  Does the whole verge need to be cut or will a roadside strip suffice for road safety purposes etc? The Plantlife charity recommends two mowings a year, in early Spring and early Autumn, and emphasises the importance of the removal of cuttings to reduce soil fertility and enhance the growth of wildflowers.  Rural verges in the UK constitute a very large area of land that can become substantial wildlife reserves. Where they are left to grow and as wildflowers become established they provide a haven for wildlife, enhancing the landscape and increasing the natural beauty of the countryside benefitting tourism and local residents alike. (See Appendix 1 for our letter to Derbyshire Dales District Council and sources of further information.)


The key issue in weed control on verges is the widespread use of glyphosate as a very effective and indiscriminate killer of all vegetation, whether "weeds" or wildflowers. Common weeds can be important food sources for insect, bird and animal species, and glyphosate is toxic to many of these creatures including earthworms, bees and butterflies which are essential to healthy ecosystems. Sprayed chemicals can contaminate ground waters, streams, and estuaries, having toxic effects on amphibians and other aquatic organisms and there is mounting evidence of the potential risks to human health. 


We feel that the use of glyphosate should be banned and phased out, but we recognise a current dependency on its use and an apparent lack of suitable alternatives. In our submissions to our local councils we have questioned the necessity for the frequency of this practice (often three times a year) and extent of glyphosate use (should it be used in populated areas near to children and pets?).  We have asked our councils to review, to minimise and seek alternatives to the practice of chemical weed control.  (See Appendix 2 for further information on glyphosate and our letter to Hathersage Parish Council.)


In submitting this evidence we acknowledge the importance of economic considerations.  We understand that local councils are short of funds and must choose cost-effective solutions. However, "nature based solutions" that enhance biodiversity, insect health and human wellbeing need not be more expensive than current methods.  Revised mowing regimes and the minimised use of glyphosate and other chemicals can actually save money.


Too great an emphasis on short term economies can make it practically impossible to effect even small improvements. In the Appendices below, we give as examples two recent letters to our local councils urging reviews of verge management regimes in order to support biodiversity. We recognise that the outcomes will largely be determined by council budgets for verge management and that for verge management must be a low priority when set against other essential services. Against this, is the growing awareness that we are rapidly losing our wild flowers, our insects and hence our birds.


We ask the Environmental Audit Committee to recommend these simple and cost-effective improvements to verge management regimes throughout the UK,


Yours faithfully,


Carol Collins, Lynne Irving, Alan Kydd, Jim Miles, Mike Pedler, Scharlie Platt, Jane Varley


Hathersage Rewilding Group, Hope Valley Climate Action

Hathersage, Derbyshire.



Appendix 1.


Letter to District Council re management of verges to increase biodiversity.


Derbyshire Dales District Council

Town Hall, Bank Road

Matlock, Derbyshire


25th August 2020


Council meeting Thursday, 27 August 2020, Agenda item 15: Biodiversity of road verges

and public open space.


We write to support the recommendations of this report and to encourage the council to

adopt the report in full and with enthusiasm.


Wildflowers and the pollinators that they sustain are in serious decline in the UK. We

believe that the methods discussed in the proposed DDDC project are likely to significantly

improve the biodiversity of Derbyshire Dales.  We strongly support recommendation 2. Rural verges are a very large area of land that could become a substantial wildlife reserve. Where verges are left to grow and wildflowers become established they provide a haven for wildlife, enhance the landscape and increase the natural beauty of Derbyshire Dales which will benefit tourism as well as improving the wellbeing of residents. We encourage DDDC to press DCC to review their mowing regimeand to strongly prioritise wildlife in all of their future plans for verges.


We believe that the public consultation proposed in Recommendation 6 should begin as

early as possible and certainly in time for discussions with DCC regarding future verge

management. As a group of residents of Hathersage we are running a trial project on one

section of verge in the village in collaboration with Hathersage Parish Council and this has

provided a way to engage with the community. Where the DDDC project involves trial areas

we encourage DDDC to include at least one in a gritstone area as well as limestone areas.

We would like to extend our work and we are keen to collaborate and consult with DDDC's

Working Group on the proposed project.


Yours faithfully


Carol Collins, Lynne Irving, Jim Miles, Mike Pedler, Scharlie Platt.

Hathersage Rewilding Group, Hope Valley Climate Action


Appendix 2.




In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, part of the UN World Health Organisation) declared glyphosate to be genotoxic (it causes DNA damage), carcinogenic to animals and a ‘probable carcinogen’ for humans.


The EU came close to banning the licensing of glyphosate in 2017, recommending that its use be minimised in parks, public playgrounds and gardens. Some countries, cities and regions have banned glyphosate use in public spaces, and several local authorities in the UK have either ceased or are phasing out its use within their urban areas, and have been successfully using alternative non-chemical methods of weed control.


We have found the following links to be useful sources of evidence and information:




Letter to Hathersage Parish Council re minimising the use of Glyphosate.


To: Members of Hathersage Parish Council 25 th. August 2020


Dear Parish Councillors,


We understand the District Council is conducting a review of weed control by the use of

chemical spraying in our local area and is consulting with Parish Councils. We are therefore

writing to explain our views about the current practice of spraying products such as

glyphosate onto our roads, kerbs, pavements etc., and to give the reasons why we think a

change of practice is necessary.


Common weeds can be important food sources for insect, bird and animal species, and

glyphosate is toxic to many creatures including earthworms, bees and butterflies which are

essential to the healthy ecosystems on which we all depend. Sprayed chemicals can

contaminate ground waters, streams, and estuaries, having toxic effects on amphibians and

other aquatic creatures and organisms. The current evidence of these effects on wildlife and

biodiversity, and the mounting evidence of the potential risks to human health raise serious

concerns, and we feel this practice should be strictly minimised and ultimately phased out.


We would like to draw your attention to an incident in early July, (photo below) where we

noticed that a vehicle which had been spraying in the Dore Lane/Station Rd area had driven

along the pavement spraying weeds, then turned around, and driven over the verge causing

the grass to die in its tracks. This shows that the spraying was not localised to the weeds

but had been spread significantly across the roads and paths, far enough and in great

enough quantity to contaminate the wheels on both sides of the vehicle. All of this excess

weed-killer will have been washed by the recent rain into rainwater gullies and then into the

environment. When we informed the District Council they replied that they could not be held

responsible as they do not spray in our area.


We are concerned not only for the staff employed to spray the chemicals, but also the risks

to the general public, especially young children, and pets. Chemicals are sprayed directly

onto pavements and kerbs, fences and walls adjacent to residential properties. Chemical

weed killers sprayed even in light breezes can result in over-spraying, causing contamination

of the surrounding area, soils, drains and waterways, and the risk of inhalation.


In your response to the DDDC review, we hope that the Parish Council will convey

our general and specific concerns about chemical spraying for weed control.  On the basis of

our research, we recommend that the following “best practice” measures be taken to: 



We believe that such a response can only have a positive effect in supporting and encouraging any efforts the District Council is making to fulfil its commitments to protecting the public’s health, protecting the environment, and increasing biodiversity.


We thank you for considering our views.


Yours faithfully


Carol Collins, Lynne Irving, Jim Miles, Mike Pedler, Scharlie Platt.

Hathersage Rewilding Group, Hope Valley Climate Action






September 2020