Proposals are being drawn up to reduce the number of times rural grass verges are cut as part of a drive to encourage wildflowers.

Hertfordshire County Council believes that by cutting selected verges less often – and at the right time – wildflowers will naturally flourish.

Officers say that would create pollinator-friendly environments and help boost biodiversity in the county.

The proposal was outlined to the council’s highways and environment cabinet panel on Thursday (November 21).

And if it gets the backing of the cabinet, at a later date, the approach would be trialled in 2020.

In the proposals, all single-carriageway rural roads – where the county council usually cut a wide strip or ‘swathe’ twice a year – would only be cut once.

But instead of leaving the cuttings in place, on a number of these verges (around 10 per cent) the cuttings would be collected.

That’s because taking the cuttings away will reduce the nutrients in the ground, which will – in turn – deter ‘aggressive’ species, such as nettles, and promote the growth of wildflowers.

Officers say this ‘enhanced maintenance’ approach means it will take two or three summers until the results are seen.

And residents, they say, may think the long, dense uncut vegetation appears ‘unmanaged’ and ‘forgotten’.

Throughout the trial the cutting of verges on urban roads – which can be cut up to 12 times a year – and sites that are cut to maintain visibility will continue to be maintained as usual.

At the meeting of the cabinet panel, councillors unanimously backed the plans for the trial.

But some councillors – including Liberal Democrats Stephen Giles-Medhurst and John Hale – questioned whether the plans went far enough.

Cllr Giles-Medhurst said the proposals needed to be progressed more quickly. And Cllr Hale said he hoped in future it would be rolled out to include more verges, including those in urban areas.

Conservative councillor Michael Muir asked why seeds couldn’t be put on the verges to encourage the growth of wildflowers.

And Labour councillor Judi Billing pointed to verges in Hitchin that had been seeded to produce wildflowers, which she said had made a difference to biodiversity and had given people a bt of a boost too.

But officers said that while it was possible to create a wildflower bed from scratch it was more costly and the mix of flowers would not be as ‘natural’.

Other councillors pointed to central reservations on busy roads and Conservative Cllr Richard Smith asked whether shrubs and small trees could be planted there.

According to the report, the council has explored the option of reducing grass cutting on the high-speed road network.

But officers have proposed that the cutting of ‘central reserves’ will remain in place.