Biodiversity: Grass and Hedge Cutting

Oral Answers to Questions — Infrastructure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 16 April 2024.

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Photo of Colm Gildernew Colm Gildernew Sinn Féin 2:30, 16 April 2024

T4. Mr Gildernew asked the Minister for Infrastructure to outline the benefits to biodiversity of reduced hedge trimming and grass cutting at this time of year. (AQT 184/22-27)

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

The benefits are huge, and my Department will continue to ensure that hedges and grass are cut at verges for road safety reasons. We have adopted a new policy from the previous time that I was in this Department, and we are now encouraging and allowing grass and flowers and biodiversity to thrive at our road verges.

Just before I came down to the Chamber, I took a walk outside. Members may have had the opportunity to walk around the perimeter of this Building. I think that the Assembly Commission has adopted a similar policy here. You can see the range of wildflowers and grasses that are now growing on the front lawn, which used to be trimmed like a snooker table. It is far more attractive, and it is more effective for biodiversity than it was previously.

A Member:

What about the weeds?

Photo of Colm Gildernew Colm Gildernew Sinn Féin

Minister, will you therefore launch a campaign to promote the benefits of biodiversity with the wider public?

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

Yes. When my Department was developing this programme, we engaged with Ulster Wildlife, and we will continue to do so. A Member said, "What about the weeds?" Yes, there is a balance to be got in all of this, but I think that, when the public understand why grass verges are growing and that it is not simply, "There is no money. They are not doing it. See them politicians, you could not trust them", but is about protecting and encouraging the biodiversity, not only in rural but in urban settings, they will be behind us on it.