What we are responsible for
As the highway authority, we are responsible for growth coming from the highway verge, including trees and other vegetation planted within the verge.
Growth into the highway from features such as Cornish hedges or trees on property boundaries is normally the responsibility of the adjacent landowner.
Where vegetation or tree growth from adjacent property into the highway is causing an obstruction or safety concern then we have the power to serve notice on the land owner to take action.
Where the growth presents an immediate hazard then we have the right to remove the growth without notice. In most cases, we will follow the notice process so that we are better able to recover our costs from the landowner should they not take action.
Overgrowth of vegetation can create a safety hazard for highway users by:
- obstructing visibility at junctions
- forcing highway users, particularly horse riders, cyclists and pedestrians, into the road
- affecting surface water drainage, causing localised flooding.
Reporting issues with trees, hedges and verges
If you wish to report an issue with overgrown hedges or overgrown or fallen trees causing a concern in the highway, please use this link:
If the issue is a threat to public safety please telephone 0300 1234 222 (24 hour service) giving details of the location.
In the rural environment we only cut vegetation to ensure highway safety or to facilitate other highway works. Verge cutting is expensive and only done where required.
In the urban environment verges are primarily cut to remove unsightly growth.
What we cut
We typically cut:
- Visibility splays and approaches to highway junctions, pedestrian crossings and school crossing patrols
- Approaches to highway signs
- The inside of bends
- Around safety fencing
- A swathe around verge markers
- Around seats, milestones and other roadside features including bridge parapets
- A continuing cut of a width, dependent on the category of the road, to ensure that growth from the verge does not unreasonably restrict highway width
- Urban verges
When we cut and how often
We have 2672km of rural cutting routes that receive treatment.
Routes will be cut at least twice a year, sometimes three times, depending on the extent of the seasonal growth.
In addition to the programmed cutting we undertake some reactive cutting where inspections indicate that safety is being compromised.
Despite the number of tractors we utilise, the logistics of cutting over such a long length of road means cutting starts in May and runs through to October.
To ensure we minimise risk we prioritise routes based on the road hierarchy, details can be found in the Highway Maintenance Manual; so the busiest roads are treated first.
Areas of particular interest
In conjunction with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, the Council has identified sites requiring special treatment due to their particular ecologic importance; these include Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
The Council records these areas in a database which is shared with our contractor.The dataset also includes records of known orchid colonies, Japanese knotweed locations and the like.
This enables our contractor to modify treatment as necessary, but they are required to always put highway safety first.
We give great consideration to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the ecological importance of the verge and hedgerow.
Our cutting is designed to be the best balance between the various environmental considerations and highway needs. We take into account other important factors which govern our cutting regime during the growing season:
- Lush grass or herbaceous vegetation often grows well over a metre in height, immediately adjacent to the carriageway, and often collapses onto road substantially reducing its useable width. When trafficked it provides a slippery surface
- Verge cutting is frequently required to enable proper ditch maintenance work
- Some verges are used by pedestrians and horse riders as a more appropriate and safe part of the highway for their purposes, and cutting aids this use
- For resurfacing to take place the full width of the road is required. This normally means additional cutting is undertaken. To facilitate access for certain other works on the verge we may do further cutting.
- The Council positively supports Active Travel. The cutting back of verges improves safety for pedestrians and cyclists, as cutting back of vegetation prevents them being pushed towards the middle of the road to avoid brambles and stinging nettles etc
- Verge growth that encroaches into the carriageway may cause damage to vehicles or hide hazards, for example large stones and roadside ditches
- Verge cutting exposes litter, fly tipping and other environmental hazards that the Council is required to clean
Not all cutting is undertaken by the Council. Most hedge cutting along the highway is done by the adjacent land owner, often farmers, who may cut the verge as well as their hedges.
It should be noted that individuals often cut verges in the vicinity of their properties for aesthetic purposes in both the urban and rural environment.