Our roadside verges and hedges can provide a rich refuge for plants and for the pollinators and other wildlife they support. The responsibility for managing England’s strategic road network falls to Highways England and the local road network to local authorities.
All public bodies, including Highways England and local authorities, have a legal duty under the 2006 Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act to have regard to conserving biodiversity when exercising their functions. Management of road verges, hedgerows and other green spaces to support wildflowers, pollinators and other wildlife is one way in which public bodies can discharge this duty, although those public bodies also have to ensure public safety.
The UK Roads Liaison Group’s Code of Practice on Well Managed Highway Infrastructure recommends that authorities manage highway verges, trees and landscaped areas with regard to their nature conservation value and biodiversity principles as well as whole-life costing, highway safety and serviceability.
Many public bodies are already taking action to enhance biodiversity along public roads. Highways England’s Biodiversity Action Plan sets out its approach to promoting biodiversity while balancing this with safety on the strategic road network. A number of local authorities are also working with conservation groups such as the local Wildlife Trust to plan and implement biodiversity enhancements alongside roads.
Defra, alongside our external partners and other Government departments, regularly reviews the evidence on the value to wildlife of roadside verges and hedges, and strongly encourages positive management that balances wildlife and safety.