To increase the biodiversity provision of the Rural Swathe, Visibility and Hedge Maintenance Contracts to the agreed two swathe cuts with a tiered approach to all biodiversity assets.
The Council has a legal duty to keep roads and pavements clear of vegetation for safe passage of highway users. The main service areas comprise; rural grass cutting (swathe); visibility cutting at road junctions; maintenance of rural hedges owned by KCC and the managed maintenance of Conservation verges.
The Council has implemented Plan Bee as part of its environmental strategy to improve the biodiversity across its assets. There is an opportunity at this point to revise the specifications to address this strategy and improve the biodiversity of these assets. To meet this aspiration, it will require increased funding.
The emphasis of the soft landscape service has changed over recent years from one of purely maintaining for safety reasons to one where we are maintaining highway safety whilst delivering key Kent County Council Environmental strategies within the service.
The current one swathe cut regime although appropriate for safety does not deliver on biodiversity. Two swathe cuts present a more sustainable approach to delivering Plan Bee aspirations.
There are three options to be considered:
· Option 1 – Current Specification
· Option 2 – Single Swathe cut with two Conservation cuts
· Option 3 - Two Swathe cuts with tiered Conservation cuts – preferred option
Reason for decision outside of ETCC:
A decision needs to be taken before the Environment and Cabinet Committees meeting on the 17th of March 2022 to allow Contractors to mobilise in time to provide the works set out in Option 3. The main works of Option 3 commence on the 1st of May 2022. A failure to provide a decision within 8 weeks (early March) of the main works associated with Option 3 will mean that they will not be able to be implemented until 2023. Option 1or 2 will then be the only choice for 2022.
Decision type: Key
Reason Key: Expenditure or savings of more than £1m;
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Division affected: (All Division);
Notice of proposed decision first published: 16/02/2022
Decision due: Not before 24th Feb 2022 by Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Reason: To allow a minimum of 5 clear working days from FED publication (semi-urgent decision)
Lead member: Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Lead director: Philip Lightowler
Department: Growth, Environment & Transport
Contact: Robin Hadley, Soft Landscape Asset Manager? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Financial implications: Option 3 is the preferred option for the specification changes to improve biodiversity and will increase costs. The budget for 2022-23 includes £300k provision for the preferred solution and was agreed at full Council on the 10th of February 2022. The revenue budget for this work is therefore contained within Highways Asset Management.
Legal implications: The Council has a legal duty to keep roads and pavements clear of vegetation for safe passage of highway users. Option 1 is the minimum requirement to maintain KCC’s statutory requirement.
Equalities implications: An Equalities Impact Assessment has been carried out and no implications have been identified at this early stage.