Cutting-edge project grows with grass collection trials in parts of West Sussex

“It’s great to see our Greenprint project get underway this growing season"

Pictured with two new cut and collect mowers, purchased with Greenprint project funding, are (from left) Grasstex Operative Adam Peacock, Grasstex Managing Director Roger Wragg and Contracts Manager Simon King, Cllr Joy Dennis, the county council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, Michele Hulme, the council’s Head of Local Highway Operations, Grasstex Grounds Manager Lukas Ozana, and Brian Lambarth, the council’s Greenprint Service Delivery Manager

Release date: 16 April 2024

An exciting new project called ‘Greenprint’ is underway in parts of West Sussex to explore innovative uses for our highway grass cuttings this growing season.

The project is part of ‘ADEPT Live Labs 2: Decarbonising Local Roads in the UK’, which is a three-year, UK-wide, £30million programme funded by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Live Labs 2 includes seven projects, grouped by four interconnected themes, led by local authorities working alongside commercial and academic partners. Each project is testing new solutions to decarbonise construction and maintenance across the whole life cycle of the local highway network.

West Sussex County Council worked in partnership with South Gloucestershire Council and, jointly, they secured a total of £3.7million to run the pioneering Greenprint project.

Starting this month, and building on last year’s planning and testing activities, West Sussex highway teams will be trialling new ‘cut and collect’ verge maintenance routines in Horsham, Aldwick, Bersted and Pagham. We currently cut these verges five times a year but leave the cuttings on the ground. This allows the nutrients to go back into the soil, encouraging grass growth. By removing the cuttings this season, we expect to reduce the soil’s fertility, slowing grass growth and enabling a wider variety of plant life and pollinators to thrive.

Slowing the grass’s growth also reduces the need for future cuts, which enables us to investigate potential carbon savings in our maintenance programme as part of the trial. Increasing the variety of plants growing in grass verges between cuts should also increase the capture and storage of carbon in the soil below, adding to climate benefits.

In Horsham, we will be trialling four cut and collects this growing season and in Aldwick, Bersted and Pagham the grass will be cut and collected five times. This slight difference between the town and the three parishes will enable the county council to compare the two maintenance regimes and their respective benefits.

We will also be measuring the yield of cuttings and then working with the University of Nottingham, Invica Industries and Ricardo to explore ways in which the cuttings can be used in the production of biochar. Biochar is produced from a heating process and is a carbon-rich, charcoal-like material, which could be used in the production of road surfacing materials.

International conservation charity ‘Plantlife’ has been carrying out baseline surveys at six of our verges in Horsham and six rural verges around the county, to allow us to accurately measure the effects of collecting cuttings on the soil and wildflower diversity at these selected sites. Please see our Greenprint web page  for monitoring site locations.

Mark Schofield, Road Verges Advisor with Plantlife, said: “We are huge advocates for the kind of joined-up thinking behind this project. Removal of cuttings reduces the soil’s fertility, which slows grass growth and enables a wider variety of plants and pollinators to thrive. It also means that the grass’s growth height is reduced, leading to a safer roadside that can be cheaper to maintain. Successes here could be multiplied up across Britain’s 260,000 hectares of verge along 400,000km of road network, with the potential to transform our roadsides into vital wildlife corridors.”

Joy Dennis, the county council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “It’s great to see our Greenprint project get underway this growing season. I’m keen to see the results of these trials, which are another good example of how we are constantly looking at ways to decarbonise our operations in our quest  to become carbon neutral by 2030 – one of our key priorities.

“These may seem relatively small-scale, experimental steps, but they could be vital in informing the way forward for this innovative project.”

Residents may notice a change in the appearance of the verges due to the changes we’re trialling. Feedback from residents and other local stakeholders are welcome and will form part of the trial. Please email any comments to with ‘Greenprint’ as the subject, or write to us at Greenprint Project, Highways and Transport, West Sussex County Council, County Hall, West Street, Chichester PO19 1RQ. Please include the verge’s location.

Greenprint’s funding:

The Greenprint project has been funded by the DfT through the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport’s (ADEPT’s) Live Labs 2 innovation programme. ADEPT represents local authority county, unitary and metropolitan directors across England. The programme is overseen by an independent Commissioning Board, which includes the Department for Transport and other experts from across the public and private sectors.

Greenprint was awarded approximately £3.7million from Live Labs 2 to examine how changing the way we manage grass verges can provide a source of materials and fuels to decarbonise highway operations, as well as supporting other benefits, such as increasing biodiversity and resilience to the changing climate. It is a joint project, working with South Gloucestershire Council and other partners, and is at the heart of both councils’ innovation and sustainability programmes.

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