Grass cutting, verge, hedge and tree maintenance

Information about who is responsible for grass cutting and maintenance of verges, hedges and trees.

Grass cutting

We are responsible for maintaining roadside verges for safety purposes whilst being sympathetic to environmental considerations. There are 9,000km of roads in North Yorkshire, meaning there is a considerable length of verge, mostly covered in grass.

You can access our online maps to view the urban grass cutting status of verges in your area. The map shows parish information, and areas of urban grass within each parish and what will be cut.

View the grass cutting map

    Frequently asked questions

    We have to balance the safety of road users and pedestrians with environmental considerations, recognising that verges are important for wildlife. Some of our grass cutting is done early in the year, and some in July, August or September, to allow flowers to set seed whilst also maintaining safety. The frequency of the cut depends on where the verge is located.

    We are not responsible for maintaining the verges of private roads leading to or from private properties, or for the vast majority of hedges by the roadside which are usually the responsibility of the adjacent landowner. Motorway and trunk road verges are maintained by Highways England.

    We receive many reports of verge damage every year. To minimise damage you can take the following steps:

    • Never drive or park on a verge - this kills plants and damages the soil structure;
    • If you see someone damaging a verge, report it;
    • Never plant bulbs or other cultivated plants on road side verges without first obtaining a licence from the county council;
    • Only cut the grass verge later in the year when wild flowers have had time to seed.

    Where weed problems exist, we use one application of a non-residual contact herbicide called 'glyphosate', which conforms to health and safety and Environment Agency requirements. We may use additional treatments where required.

    Urban and rural grass cutting

    Our grass cutting policy is split into two: urban and rural. Urban grass cutting takes place on roads with a speed limit of 40mph or less, and rural grass cutting takes place on roads with a speed limit of 50mph or above.

    Changes to our urban grass cutting policy

    In April 2015, we made changes to our urban grass cutting policy on roads of 40mph or less.

    Until recently, most urban grass cutting has been provided for amenity purposes only. However, due to reductions in the money we receive from the government, we have had to find significant savings in our highways budget. This means that we will now fund grass cutting in urban areas that is essential for visibility or safety purposes only.

    Map legend

    Colour Description Additional details
    Red Urban grass cut by the county council The county council cuts grass verges in this area.
    Green Urban grass cut by the parish council The parish council will cut the grass verges in this area. Please direct all enquiries to them.
    Yellow Urban grass cut by district or borough council agreement In parts of Harrogate and Scarborough, the urban grass cutting is carried out by the borough council on behalf of the county council through a service level agreement. We are currently in discussions with the borough councils and the current grass cutting arrangements will continue for the remainder of 2015. We are hopeful of an agreement for the period after this, however this is still subject to further discussions and we will update this information when we know more.

    We have entered into a formal agreement with Selby District Council for urban grass cutting in parts of the district and enquiries should be directed to the district council for these areas.

    Grey No urban grass There is no urban grass in this parish. It will be cut in line with our rural grass cutting policy meaning there is no change.
    White Currently unknown We know that a third party is cutting the grass but are unaware who this is. Inspectors visit these locations and will ensure that the statutory minimum standard is maintained. As parishes contact us, this information may change.

    How to use the map

    To view the urban grass and what will be cut, you need to zoom the map in towards street level.When zoomed out, the map shows the whole county split into parishes, each of which is colour-coded according to the table above.

    Urban grass is shown in a green hatch, and visibility or safety cut areas are shown in blue. Areas of rural grass (verges next to roads where the speed limit is 50mph or greater) are not shown on the map as these are unaffected.

    Example showing grass we will cut


    If the parish chosen is one where the county council cuts the grass, only areas in blue will be cut. This will happen five times a year for visibility or safety purposes while areas in the green hatch will be left uncut.

    Reporting concerns with the map

    If you have concerns about urban grass cutting in an area for which we are responsible, for example you feel we haven't included a safety critical junction, you can report this to us online. If your concerns relate to urban grass cutting in an area looked after by parish, district or borough councils, please contact them directly.

    Offering to cut the grass in your parish

    If you are prepared to cut the grass in your parish, you should speak to your parish council directly to get permission. We have offered parish councils a financial contribution for cutting the visibility and safety areas of urban highway grass.

    Inaccuracies on the map

    Some parish councils have not yet decided whether to carry out grass cutting in their area. These areas will receive a visibility or safety cut by the county council in the interim until the parish council meeting. Once we have been made aware of the parish council's decision, we will update the map.

    Information on the map showing areas of grass and what is planned to be cut is as accurate as we can make it given the limitations of the map scale and method of identification. The map is also being updated regularly as we receive information from parishes.

    Hedge and tree maintenance

    Hedges and trees grown to mark the boundary with private property are the responsibility of the landowner or occupier and it is up them to maintain them.

    Frequently asked questions

    We are responsible for:

    • Managing and keeping the trees and hedges we own, such as those growing within the highway (including verges and footways) in a safe condition and ensuring they do not damage property or obstruct the highway;
    • Protecting safety by ensuring that owners and occupiers maintain roadside hedges and trees as outlined above. A programme of cyclic inspections is completed covering the highway network in North Yorkshire and, when necessary, we liaise with tree owners to ask that appropriate work be carried out; and
    • Enhancing road safety by cutting hedges on the inside of bends and at junctions on major roads at the same time as cutting the grass verges. Despite doing this work, owners and occupiers are not relieved of their responsibilities.

    Private landowners and occupiers have responsibility for:

    • Ensuring growth does not obscure road signs;
    • Maintaining visibility for road users, particularly at junctions and on the inside of bends;
    • Ensuring growth does not prevent the passage or affect the safety of people using a road, footway, cycleway or public right of way, including cyclists and pedestrians;
    • Removing dead or decaying trees and other growth that may fall across the highway;
    • Removing branches that may prevent the passage of high-sided vehicles or obstruct light from a street light;
    • Ensuring the highway is left clear of debris from cutting work; and
    • Arranging for hedge and tree maintenance works to be undertaken.

    If your hedge is causing an obstruction or presenting a danger, we will tell you that work to cut the offending vegetation must be undertaken within 14 days.

    If action isn't taken, or if it is an immediate safety issue, we may carry out the work and recover costs from you.

    We will only take action where a hedge or tree is overhanging the highway or causing an obstruction or safety issue for road users.

    We cannot help you to resolve disputes with neighbours concerning hedges that are on private land.

    Some trees are protected by tree preservation orders and/or lie within conservation areas.

    This can be checked with your district or borough council. Consent is required before any works, including minor pruning, are carried out on protected trees.

    A tree preservation order prohibits the cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, wilful damage or wilful destruction of trees without the consent of the local authority.

    They can be applied to any tree or woodland which may be of special interest or makes a positive contribution to its surrounding environment and the community. Trees exempt from tree preservation orders are those that are dead, dying, diseased or dangerous and fruit trees grown for the commercial production of fruit.

    The district councils are responsible for holding information on tree preservation orders.

    To plant within the highway you must obtain a plant/tree licence from us.

    Trees should be retained and protected wherever possible. Pruning or felling can be the subject of significant local concern, and should only be done with specialist advice and support. Any works should be carried out by a qualified and insured contractor.

    Landowners and farmers are recommended to undertake trimming in January and February and not to cut back hedges from 1 April to 31 July. This is to cut the chance of disturbing breeding birds and destroying nests; allow most plants to finish flowering and seeding; allow nuts and berries to be available to wildlife for as long as possible in winter, and to reduce congestion and delays, as there will probably be less traffic on the roads.

    Report a verge, tree or hedge online

    If the issue is causing an immediate danger to the safety of road users, it is classed as an emergency. You should contact us by telephone to report an emergency rather than using our online form. Our opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am - 5.30pm. Dial 999 outside office hours for our emergency service.

    You can tell us about an issue with a tree or hedge by registering / logging in to the 'my account' section of the website. 'My account' also allows you to view details of services you have previously applied, booked and paid for. You can also see updates on their progress.

    Log in and report a highway issue

    If you prefer, you can tell us about an issue with a tree or hedge anonymously, but please be aware that you will miss out on the benefits of having an account ie. you will not receive progress updates.