Most of us love Kent's green landscapes but as I travel along the roads in Maidstone and the surrounding countryside I have noticed that much of our greenery has become overly rampant. More and more roadside signs are obscured, some are completely hidden and footways are becoming impassable.
In most cases residents, farmers and other landowners are responsible for cutting back hedgerows bordering their properties. However, it is Kent County Council that is responsible for safety on our roads.
Would the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport please advise what steps Kent Highways are taking to ensure the county's hedgerows are properly maintained?
As has rightly been pointed out, in most cases the responsibility for cutting back of vegetation rests with the adjacent landowners. Kent County Council has a duty to ensure the highway is clear so as not to cause a danger for highway users.
As you are no doubt aware, we have a team that inspect the network at set frequencies depending on the classification of the road. In real terms it can mean an inspection takes place on either a monthly or six monthly basis for carriageways and monthly or annually for footways. Where vegetation is noted to be causing a safety issue, action is taken ranging from knocking on doors asking for the vegetation to be cut back, to legal action for non-compliance. If the overgrowth is considered to be of such severity that it is causing a potential hazard, then Kent County Council Highways, Transportation & Waste may take direct action to remove it to ensure public safety.
In addition, we have our highway stewards dealing with individual enquiries from parishes and customers Each enquiry is investigated and the appropriate action taken depending on the severity of the issue.
We are given powers under the Highways Act 1980 Section 154 to carry out enforcement action if necessary. This however can be a lengthy process and take many months to bring to a conclusion. Whilst we have to take into consideration the bird nesting season, public safety will always come first.
As far as county-owned hedgerows are concerned, these are cut annually over the winter months.