Plan Bee

Biodiversity Verges Initiative

Description of the work:

Work will be carried out on various sections of the Fastrack network in Dartford and Gravesham to designate parcels of land as “biodiversity verges”. These spaces will provide habitat for pollinating insects and other key wildlife which will have a positive effect on the biodiversity across Dartford and Gravesham. These areas will add a combined 30,000-meter square area (3 hectares or over 7 acres) and include a variety of wild plants which will attract and support a range of insects and wildlife.  These works will also include an annual maintenance contract which will be tasked with the regular upkeep of these areas. Support for pollinators forms a part of the wider “Kent’s Plan Bee”; a cross-Kent initiative designed to take action of Kent’s vital pollinating insects and to tackle declines in Kent’s biodiversity generally.


One core objective of this programme is to increase the overall level of biodiversity which is present across Dartford and Gravesham. These boroughs consist of large areas of urban environment which can sometimes be hostile for pollinators and other wildlife to live in. The introduction of these biodiversity areas will improve and increase the green infrastructure of the borough thereby allowing for designated spaces for wildlife to live and thrive. Although the landscaping work being undertaken by Fastrack aims to boost biodiversity generally, one species has been chosen as a target: the Shrill Carder bee (Bombus sylvarum). 

Kent's Plan Bee Image

This bumblebee has experienced a rapid decline in overall numbers and distribution across the country in the last 3 decades, becoming England’s rarest bumblebee.  North Kent, including Dartford and Gravesham boroughs, still retain and support small populations of this species, in one of only five areas nationally where the bumblebee is still found.  The Shrill Carder bee requires flower-rich areas of grassland for forage (feeding), as well as longer areas of tussocky grass retained for nesting and hibernating.  This bumblebee species has been recorded on road verges and other urban sites in the local area around Dartford and Gravesham.  Fastrack offers an ideal opportunity to provide corridors or ‘stepping stones’ of suitable grassland habitat to support the Shrill Carder, and in the process, provide habitat for many other insects and animals and wildlife generally.

The increase in green infrastructure will have other added benefits. Areas of Dartford and Gravesham have been identified to be poor air quality zones. By increasing the areas of planting and vegetation, a longer-term benefit may be to bring some improvement to air quality by helping to filter and remove dangerous pollutants, particulate matter and dust from the air as well as retain and absorb water-borne pollutants in surface water runoff.  There will also be other added environmental and social benefits. Increased areas of vegetation and green infrastructure will help to improve the overall landscape character and aesthetic appeal of areas in parts of Dartford and Gravesham, supporting and promoting the regeneration aims of the areas.

Summary of design and maintenance work

Part of Kent County Council’s specific design of biodiversity verges and reseeding work has included the development of a bespoke seed mix which has been selected to include suitable wildflowers which provide nectar and pollen (forage) for pollinators including butterflies, moths, bees, and hoverflies, as well as the national priority species Shrill Carder bee. Furthermore, the maintenance contracts for these verges will also be reduced from 6 cuts per year to just 1 cut annually. This annual cut will take place in autumn when wildflowers have finished flowering and seeds have set. The reduction in cutting will not only allow the grassland plants to flower but will provide longer areas of tussocky grass and vegetation for pollinators and other wildlife to nest, shelter and hibernate.  Some stretches of biodiversity verge are also being planted with native hedgerow mixes, as well as bulbs and plug plants.  The addition of taller, hedgerow habitats will support a wider range of wildlife, and the bulbs and plug plants will provide additional forage and colour to the verges.

 Access along the pedestrian and cycle routes will be maintained by retaining 6 cuts per year along these stretches.