A TEST Valley community leader and a Romsey hedgehog rescuer have criticised a county council for mowing down some verges that could be filled with wildlife.

Deputy leader for Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC), cllr Nick Adams-King, urged Hampshire County Council (HCC) to be more aware of animals when cutting verges back as part of the council's highway maintenance.

Cllr Adams-King said: "Cutting the verges is vital for highway safety, however I’ve been contacted by many residents who have been unhappy at the extent to which verges have been cut.

"I’ve heard of householders who have had newly planted hedges that have been mown down and many concerns about nesting birds, young mammals, insects and wildflowers in the areas that have been cut.

"I had one complaint from a woman who lives in Toothill Road in Romsey and she had just planted her hedge, but the council cut it down."

He added: "We have persuaded the county council to delay verge cutting in Embley Lane [West Wellow] next year to enable the rare Silver Washed Fritillaries butterflies to complete their life cycle prior to the cut, however I am sure there is much more than can be done.

"TVBC delay all but essential hedge and verge cutting until after nesting season, and have signed up to the British Hedgehog Society code of conduct for verge maintenance. I’d urge Hampshire County Council to do the same."

Pip Hollingworth, also known as 'Romsey Hedgehog Lady', said: "We recently contacted Hampshire Highways with our concerns about their excessive cutting and flailing in an area where hedgehogs are known to nest.

"The reply we received was dismissive and unapologetic.

"Despite having witnessed two dead hedgehogs are a direct result of this excessive flailing."

She added: "Hedgehogs are a priority species on the UK biodiversity action plan; we all have a responsibility to protect our wildlife.

"Hampshire County Council should be following the example set by TVBC, making wildlife habitat protection a priority when carrying out roadside maintenance.”

Cllr Adams-King received the complaints from residents between May 13 and May 27.

Deputy leader of Hampshire County Council and executive member for economy, transport and environment, cllr Rob Humby said: “We are committed to the careful management of Hampshire’s roadside verges to ensure not only the safety of those who use our roads but also that any disturbance to flora and wildlife is kept to an absolute minimum.

"Following discussions with the conservation charity, Plantlife, regarding the optimum time for carrying out verge maintenance, we have brought forward our cutting programme to early spring.

"That said, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the start of this years’ programme, and some work may still need to take place into the early summer.”

For more information about Hampshire County Council’s verge and grass cutting regimes please visit the following web pages:https://www.hants.gov.uk/transport/roadmaintenance/grasscutting