Shrubs and hedges

We maintain urban highway shrub beds and hedges once a year to help keep the highway safe for all users.

As part of Kents Plan Bee Pollinator Action Plan we are identifying ways we can enhance biodiversity and conservation while balancing the important need to keep our highways safe for all users.

What we do

We trim urban hedges once each year usually during the autumn and winter months to help avoid disturbing nesting birds. To deal with highway safety issues or to prevent obstruction of footpaths and roads, we trim some hedges during the summer months, carefully checking the hedge for nesting birds before we start.

We identify berry holding hedges, which we cut in summer to see if we can delay cutting to the winter while making sure we keep the roads and footpaths safe for users and clear of vegetation obstruction.

Hedges are trimmed to remove seasonal growth and allow for next year's growth to ensure the highway is safe to use. This includes cutting back from kerb edges, path edges and where we can, nearby fences. We will cut seasonal growth on top of the hedge if we have maintained the hedge top in previous years. Where we have not previously maintained the hedge top, we will only face up the hedge sides away from the footpath or road and will allow the hedge to reach their natural height.

How we cut back hedges and shrubs

Shrubs and hedges - video transcript

Privately owned hedges

Most hedges, especially rural ones, are privately owned and are on property boundaries. These are the sole responsibility of the adjacent landowner. If you have a hedge adjacent the highway, we ask you keep it trimmed back away from the edge. We have moved our rural hedge cutting from autumn to winter months, so berries can remain on hedgerows for longer to benefit winter-feeding birds.

Report an overgrown hedge

If a hedge we maintain has not been cut back through the year as shown above, let us know by using our online reporting tool.

If the hedges are not maintained by us, it is likely to be either district council, parish council or housing association.

We prune and weed shrub beds once each year between mid-May and February. Shrubs are trimmed to allow for next year's growth, and to ensure that the highway is safe to use. This includes cutting back from kerb edges, path edges and nearby fences.

Over the spring and summer months, weeds may grow within the shrub beds. We will remove these on the annual maintenance visit, unless they are causing an issue to the highway.

Find out if we maintain the shrubs near you by using our online reporting tool.

If the shrubs are not maintained by us, it is likely to be either district council, parish council or housing association.

Buses are an important part of Kent’s transport network. Under the Highways Act, property owners have a responsibility to keep vegetation on their property under control, to ensure safe passageway for buses and other vehicles.

Watch our video and find out how we maintain our standards of bus route clearances.

Bus routes - video transcript

Read our guidance on our requirements when cutting back vegetation on bus routes (PDF, 1.7 MB).

If you would like to change how the highway verge looks outside your house you need to apply for a cultivation licence . This licence is needed to:

  • plant additional shrubs or flowers in one of our shrub beds
  • chang a grass verge into a shrub bed.

A licence will allow you to manage the verge or shrub bed as long as it is safe to do so and the requirements of the cultivation licence are met. The licence is free and needs to be applied for every year.

You can gently prune the seasonal growth on highway shrubs or hedges outside your home if you can do it safely. All cuttings must be removed and disposed of responsibly and safely. We are unable to collect them from you. You must not dig up and remove highway shrubs and hedges. We may ask you to replace them if you do.

Remember there may be birds nesting between March and September. It is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to disturb the nests of wild birds so you should check the areas you plan to cut first.

Please cut back your own vegetation if it is overhanging a road or footpath and causing an issue or obstruction.

Always make sure you can carry out any maintenance safely, wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and be aware of highway pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

If you see a build-up of litter please report this to the district council so it can be cleared by their street cleaning teams.