A new remote-controlled grass mower – affectionately nicknamed ‘Robochop’ – is being used in the Burnham-On-Sea area by Somerset County Council as it embarks on grass cutting of roadside verges.

The authority is cutting more than 9,400km of roadside verges across the county to keep drivers safe over the Spring and Summer, preserving visibility, providing space for pedestrians, and improving the flow of water along drainage channels.

“The new machine allows staff to work safely away from the highway and also means reduced disruption for road users as in many locations there is no longer a need for lane closures or slow moving tractors in the road,” says a spokesman.

Another innovation is a new online mapping feature which allows residents to keep track of the summer grass cutting programme as it progresses. This can be found at www.travelsomerset.co.uk/grass-cutting where residents can also report problems.

The Council says it is also committed to protecting wildlife where this does not conflict with safety requirements. In late 2018 the Council updated its Somerset Pollinator Action Plan which seeks to protect and enhance the amount and quality of pollinator habitat across the county.

“This has led to a review of the summer grass cutting operation and for 2019 only a single 1m swathe of verge will be cut, except on specific bends and at junctions where increased visibility is required. This will protect approximately an additional 3km sq of highway verge for wildlife – that’s an area roughly the size of 191 Somerset County Cricket Cub pitches!”

“Safety is always our priority but we’re also committed to protecting wildlife where we can. We’ve reviewed our summer grass-cutting programme and believe we can reduce the amount of grass cut, saving money and preserving vital habitat for wildlife without impacting on safety.”

“Of course if you do spot a hazard caused by an overgrown verge then please report it to us online so we can take action.”