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Factsheet: Roads and farmers

Verges, trees and ditches

Weeds and pest control
When using weed and pest control chemicals near a public road:
only use pesticides approved by the Pesticides Safety Directorate employ trained operatives, or ensure that you and any staff have the correct training.

You should always:

  • remove harmful weeds from your land in accordance with the Weeds Act
  • phone us on 0345 155 1004 to tell us if any weeds on the highway verges are affecting your farming operations
  • phone us on 0345 155 1004 to tell us if any Japanese Knotweed is growing on the highway verge. If Japanese Knotweed is growing on your land it is your responsibility to manage; it should not be flailed or mowed as this will cause it to spread.

Hedge cutting
Under the Highways Act, roadside hedges are the responsibility of the landowner who has to:

  • prevent the hedge from overhanging the highway
  • prevent hedges from obscuring street lights and road signs
  • clear the road of debris after hedges have been cut
  • meet the obligations of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 ensuring that nesting birds, bats and dormice are protected.

If we consider that a hedge interferes with safe use of the highway and you do not take action to cut it we can serve a formal notice asking you to remove it.

We recommend trimming hedges in January and February to ensure that nuts and berries are available for birds and other wildlife. Trimming should not take place during the main bird breeding season of March to July unless it’s unavoidable for road safety.

Where possible hedges should be cut on a two or three year (or longer) cycle. If the hedge has to be cut every year for visibility or drainage you should consider only cutting the top of the hedge once every two or three years. The Natural England Environmental Stewardship Scheme provides opportunities for farmers to be rewarded for sensitive hedgerow management.

On major routes we will cut hedges on the inside of bends and at junctions to maintain visibility.

The Hedgerow Regulations 1997 state it is an offence to remove a hedgerow or section of hedgerow without notifying your local planning authority. For more details contact your city, borough or district council, or National Park Authority governing your area.

You can get advice on maintaining hedges from The Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and the Devon Hedge Group.

Roadside trees
Trees improve the environment and provide an excellent habitat for wildlife. However, landowners have an obligation under the Highways Act to ensure that the trees on their land do not endanger highway users.

  • Carry out regular checks of trees on your land that might fall onto the highway and arrange for any necessary tree surgery work.
  • Ensure that trees overhanging the highway don’t cause an obstruction to the normal passage of vehicles.
  • Plant trees in hedgerows where they won’t be a danger to road users.
  • Remember that you might need permission to lop a tree covered by a tree preservation order.

Highway verges
It is an offence to deposit objects on highway verges which could cause an obstruction or hazard.

  • Don’t leave farm materials on highway verges.
  • Don’t place stones on the verge to prevent parking.
  • Don’t drive on the verges as this may damage easements, ditches and grips.
  • Driving on verges may harm wildlife and bring mud onto the road.
  • Park all machinery off highway verges and away from sight lines.
  • Find out if any verges alongside your land are protected for their special wildlife value.

Ditches and drains
Ditches on land near the highway which take water from the road are your responsibility. We may sometimes have to take measures to drain the water from the highway on to adjacent land. If this affects you we may be able to pay compensation for any damage caused by the work.

  • Regularly clean the waterways on your land in areas where they drain the highway.
  • Check headwalls and grills regularly.