WHAT is this? A lost Frisbee? A child’s balloon? No, it’s a 40mph sign on the A120 near Braintree obscured by a hedge and proof the policy of using weedkiller to keep signs clear of vegetation is a spectacular failure.

I was surprised at county councillor Robert Mitchell’s robust defence of the use of weedkiller on Essex's verges in last week's Times, but I can only assume the deputy cabinet member for highways hasn't driven along the A120 at Bradwell recently.

If he had, he would have witnessed that signs are not being kept clear of vegetation and the process is leaving unnecessarily long stretches of ugly, brown patches of dying grass along our verges.

Cllr Mitchell claimed in his letter that “manually cutting around signs would be costly” but the policy of using weedkiller by Braintree Council on behalf of Essex County Council to keep "sight lines and road edges visible” is obviously a spectacular failure and a waste of money.

To improve the clarity of signs and road safety, I would suggest that instead of spraying weedkiller indiscriminately, manual tools coupled with common sense are used instead.

But the use of weedkiller isn’t just a road safety failure, it is also a disaster for the environment.

With more than 97 per cent of the UK’s meadows destroyed since the Thirties, road verges are now a vital refuge for many bees, butterflies and birds.

The world’s insects are hurtling towards extinction, say scientists, threatening a catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems, and the council’s policy of using weedkiller is compounding the problem.

Love them or loathe them, insects pollinate the majority of plant species, keep the soil healthy and recycle nutrients - mankind cannot survive without them so our roadside verges should be left to flourish as much as possible.

Paul Thorogood

Green Party district councillor for Kelvedon and Feering ward