Our Services - Vegetation

Rural Grass Cutting Trial - Wildlife Corridors

Trial of early season reduction in rural grass cutting 2023

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) has received an increased level of contact regarding rural verge cutting since May 2020. Most notably an increase in requests to stop cutting rural verges or change the schedule in line with wild plant cycles. ESCC has also set targets for carbon reduction of which increased biodiversity plays an important part.

A trial reduction in verge cutting has been undertaken over the last two years, 2021 and 2022, in select Parish and Town Councils who have previously expressed an interest.

Overall, the trial has been well received, however, neither of the trial years was a typical growing season therefore it was agreed at the 19th December 2022 Lead Member for Transport and Environment meeting to extend the trial and evaluate the impact of reduced rural cuts over more grass cutting seasons.

Trial Areas

The trial was offered to all Parish and Town Councils across the county.

The following Parish and Town Councils opted to take part in the trial:

  • Ashburnham with Penhurst parish
  • Battle
  • Beckley
  • Bodiam
  • Brightling
  • Burwash
  • Chiddingly
  • Crowhurst
  • Ditchling
  • East Dean and Friston
  • East Hoathly with Halland
  • Firle
  • Framfield
  • Frant
  • Hastings
  • Heathfield and Waldron
  • Kingston
  • Laughton
  • Lewes
  • Saleshurst & Robertsbridge
  • Sedlescombe
  • Uckfield
  • Wadhurst
  • Warbleton
  • Westmeston
  • Withyham
  • Wivelsfield

Change to Service in Trial Areas

The standard service is for rural grass verges to receive two cuts per year. The first cut starts in May and the second in Autumn. These are carried out as a 1m wide swathe and visibility splays at junctions and on the inside of bends where sight lines between road users may be obscured by vegetation.

The trial reduces the rural grass cutting service in the selected areas to:

  • One visibility cut undertaken around May/June
  • One 1 metre Swathe with Visibility cuts in the Autumn

Please note, the reduction will not take place on single track roads due to increased safety risks for road users.

We want to hear from you!

As part of the trial we will be monitoring the verges, alongside the local councils and their wildlife organisations to record what grows.

We would also like to hear about what you see, and your feedback to the trial.

You can submit your thoughts and findings here on our webform.

The responses from this form will be reviewed once the trial has finished and we will then provide an overview of the trial and any next steps.

Please note, responses will not be regularly monitored nor responded to individually; any issues should be reported using our report a problem service..  


What about safety and visibility?

As the highway authority, we have a duty to maintain a safe network for those who use it, in accordance with the relevant legislation. Therefore, safety issues will remain a priority, with any visibility or access issues being picked up and rectified through the usual process. You can report a problem as per normal via our website or contact centre.

Is this reduction being done to save money?

This trial is not being undertaken as a cost saving exercise.  We do not foresee costs changing dramatically as our contractor will continue to travel similar distances. As a public authority we have a legal duty under the 2006 Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act to have regard to biodiversity in all we do and this is part of our response to this duty.  We are also responding to the considerable public interest which has been shown in this issue, particularly over the last year.

What rural cuts are other Parish and Town Councils Receiving in East Sussex?

Parish and Towns who are not included in the trial will receive the standard two cuts per year, both undertaken as an 1m wide swathe and visibility splays.

Will this be a permanent change?

Feedback from the trial will be collated and reviewed along with any operational issues encountered, costs and an overview of the flora and fauna observed in the verges during the trial.  The results will be presented at a Lead Member for Transport and Environment meeting and considered for a potential Policy change to the whole rural grass cutting service from 2024/25. 

Does this affect Urban Grass cutting?

Urban Grass Cutting will not be affected. You can find out more about Urban Grass cutting on our website.

What will be done about the litter in verges?

Litter is the responsibility of the relevant District or Borough Council. You can find their contact details on the East Sussex County Council Website.

We do liaise with District and Borough Councils where relevant on our grass cutting programme so litter picks can be aligned.

Does a verge have to have flowers to benefit ecology?

Simply stopping mowing can have enormous benefits for wildlife.  Long grass alone can provide habitat which supports insects which in turn benefit other animals and birds.  Many butterflies lay their eggs on grasses for example.

Why do some verges have more flowers than others and as a result are much more attractive? 

Soils and exposure vary throughout our beautiful county and so this impacts the vigour of growth and the mix of species which thrive there.

Now that it’s July/August, the flowers have all died and the verges are looking brown and untidy, why don’t you cut them? 

Nature is not always tidy and all plants must be allowed to go through their lifecycle in order to produce seed for future years, and provide a food source for insects, birds and animals.  Once we cut in the early autumn they verges will look tidy for the winter.

I live in the area where the trial will take place, why wasn’t I consulted?

Prior to opting into the trial, we asked all Parish and Town Councils who wanted to be involved to consult/notify their local residents. They were only added to the trial once they had confirmed this had been carried out.