ROADSIDE verges should be a haven for diversity in what is “often a sea of intensive agriculture” across Carmarthenshire, a councillor has said.
Cllr John James, chairman of the council’s environmental scrutiny committee, described the county as a “jewel in Wales’s natural crown” – but one that did not look after itself.
He was referring to a task and finish group’s report into how roadside verges and hedges were maintained, and said further budget reductions “would have a detrimental impact”.
The committee has now adopted five recommendations which call on the council to promote biodiversity, undertake campaigns against littering, provide a guide explaining the roles of the highway authority and landowners, and liaise more with town and community councils on maintenance.
Cllr James said roadside verges were untouched by fertilisers and pesticides. “They are a network of routes in what is often a sea of intensive agriculture,” he said.
The committee also wants the council to encourage more farmers and local contractors to apply for verge and hedge maintenance work.
Councillor Dorian Phillips said two contractors he had spoken to were put off by all the paperwork and being asked “far too many personal questions”.
Carmarthenshire has 3,500km of roads, and one full cut of its rural verges costs £275,000, including traffic management.
Councillor Penny Edwards said the blight of litter was costly and had “a huge impact on conservation”.
Councillor Mansel Charles said it was important that verges on narrow roads were cut early in the season, and that wider strips should be cut on corners.
“Some of the contractors don’t have any common sense,” he said. “Are they given instructions about cutting a second width where it’s needed, for safety more then anything?”
An officer said second or third width cuts were the norm at junctions and bends.
Meanwhile, to save money, grass-cutting in towns and villages in Carmarthenshire is being reduced from four cuts to three in 2019/20, and then two cuts per year after that.