*Photograph: Chris Copley

135 EAST CLARE landowners were contacted over a three month period last year reminding them of their obligation to hedge cutting while the local authority had pledged to commence legal process for personnel that neglect their duties in this area.

Arguably one of the most thorny subjects dealt with by elected representatives of Clare County Council, hedge cutting has proven to be a prickly issue when it comes to compliance from landowners.

Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended by Section 46 of the 2000 Amendment Act, prohibits the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation, with certain strict exemptions, from 1 March to 31 August, meaning hedge cutting can only take place from the months of September right through to the end of February.

Senior executive engineer in the Killaloe Municipal District, Niamh Madden confirmed that their office issued a total of 135 letters from September to December of last year to landowners and occupiers “outlining their obligations under Section 70 of the Roads Act 1993 and requesting that overgrown vegetation be cut where required”.

She explained, “where issues persisted and the landowner/occupier failed to act, follow-up letters and/or notices were issued by this office. A number of landowners did revert to the Municipal District upon receipt of the letters and informed the office that hedgecutting had been carried out or was scheduled to take place. Unfortunately, not all landowners or occupiers who were requested to liaise with the Municipal District office did so and despite the best efforts of the Municipal District, there remains a number of landowners/occupiers in the area who have failed in their legal and moral obligations to attend to overgrown vegetation and hedges”.

Speaking at a recent sitting of the Killaloe MD, Cllr Pat Burke (FG) affirmed that 135 letters “seems like an awful lot”. He queried, “These people who ignored the notices, are they left off the hook for this year or will it be next Sept until they are followed up on and in the meantime, the hedges stay overgrown. Hedges that don’t get cut in the winter time will be the guilty ones again, at least if they are trimmed back it takes a while to recover or grow, the wildlife people won’t like to hear me say that”.

In response, Ms Madden said on top of the 135 letters, the Killaloe MD was in regular communication with Coillte to “ensure their hedges were cut back where necessary”.

She stated, “Are we letting them off the hook? Absolutely not, we have a process to follow as outlined in the Roads Act 1993, we have to issue the notice and be fair to people, we have done that by sending out letters, warning letters and notices, we’re following the process. Where we as a local authority have to come in cut a hedge where we shouldn’t have to, we will be pursuing people for costs, unfortunately the only recourse for net costs is to go to reports so it could be the case that we will be facing court cases this year, we hope people will fulfil their obligations under the legislation but there is nobody being let off the hook, absolutely not, people are being requested to fulfil their obligation and where that fails we commence legal process”.

This stance was praised by Cllr Burke, “I welcome that you are following up and nobody will be getting off lightly but the downside is the time, landowners can’t cut their hedges after February, some hedges may not get cut this year despite the best efforts as the calendar may not allow, will visit this again at the end of the year.

An improvement had been visible in the effort of farmers this year to cut their hedges, Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) believed. “I saw a lot more hedge cutters, I suppose the weather was favourable as well and I felt a lot of areas near me had achieved a lot of good work”.

Engagement with Coillte was welcomed by Cllr Pat Hayes (FF), “I think we have some issues with private forestry where responsibility is not taken”.

Efforts of the Council officials was acknowledged by Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) who noted some landowners had “done fantastic work”. He added, “this year I think a lot of hedges have been cut and Coillte. I think the message is getting out there”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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