THE council has come under fire for mowing a dandelion-strewn verge in Chester at a time when numbers of bees and other pollinator insects are in decline.

But Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) defended its decision saying a cycle of grass-cutting "ensures the regeneration" of verges.

It also stressed that it had created a number of wildflower verges across the borough and struck a balance between “maintaining our beautiful borough and nurturing wildlife”.

The issue was first raised by city environmental campaigner Andy Scargill on Twitter on Wednesday (April 17).

He posted ‘before and after’ pictures of the verge on Parkgate Road, saying: “Today @Go_CheshireWest mowed the verges on Parkgate Road which were flush with dandelions providing much needed food for bees and other insects emerging from hibernation. A couple of weeks until they'd finished flowering wouldn't have hurt.”

Others were then quick to urge the council to rethink its mowing practices.

Chester’s SuperTrees tweeted: “Please please please stop this over mowing! It makes absolutely NO sense. It costs you more to mow, the community do not want it and it harms biodiversity. Please stop!”

Previously, the likes of national conservation charity Plantlife have mounted campaigns against local authorities calling for them to scale back their mowing of verges.

A charity spokesman said: “Councils have adopted this over-eager regime to mowing which really has been around for some time now, thanks to the neat and tidy brigade.

“There is this idea that all verges must look like a village green, and councils are now having to undertake this balancing act to firstly keep drivers safe but then also help wildlife where possible.”

A report published last month revealed wild pollinating insects have disappeared from a quarter of their former habitats across the UK.

Scientists from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology found a third of bee and hoverfly species across the country have seen population crashes since the 1980s.

In response to the criticism, CWaC’s Director of Place Operations, Maria Byrne, said: “Grass cutting operations have begun on verges and amenity areas across the borough on a three week cycle which means verges containing dandelions may be cut. We know the vital role bees have in pollinating our flowers, crops and trees and therefore we strike a balance between maintaining our beautiful borough and nurturing wildlife.

“To boost biodiversity in the borough we have created dedicated wildflower verges which are a mix of cornfield and meadow styles. Extensive new meadow areas have also be created in some of our parks. Many of our existing verges and hedges contain mixed species, often with fruit trees, to help pollinating insects like bees.

“A cycle of grass cutting on these verges ensures their regeneration and is the best method of making sure that any flowering plants aren’t blocked by hardier grass plants.”

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