Strong criticism has been voiced of landowners across Co Clare labelled as an “absolute disgrace” for failing to cut their hedges.
Question marks regarding the pride Clare landowners have in their own road frontage were also raised during a lively discussion on hedge cutting at the September sitting of the Killaloe Municipal District.
Cathaoirleach of the MD, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) tabled a proposal seeking Clare County Council “to deal with hedge cutting and over hanging trees and branches” during the open season for carrying out the works.
Under Section 70 of the Roads Act 1993, landowners and occupiers of land are obliged to take all reasonable care to ensure that the trees, ditches, hedges and other vegetation growing on their land, are not or could not, become a danger to people using or working on a public road. This means that landowners and occupiers must cut their hedges, overhanging trees and branches when necessary.
Niamh Madden, senior executive engineer said the Killaloe MD was already “proactive in recent weeks” by issuing reminder letters alerting landowners of their obligations under the legislation.
Not all landowners are equal in their efforts, Cllr Cooney maintained, “some landowners are doing fantastic work and there is no point saying they are not but other landowners are not carrying out their duties”, those neglecting their duty were “sickening”. He said agricultural contractors, hauliers, drivers and cyclists were all impacted and felt the presence of a closed season for hedge-cutting “unfortunately” existed.
Both agricultural and haulage contractors are not travelling some roads in East Clare because they are being forced into the middle of the road due to overhanging branches, the O’Callaghans Mills man warned.
This viewpoint was echoed by Cllr Pat Hayes (FF), “health and safety takes precedent here in every case”.
Ms Madden advised the meeting that the onus is on landowners to cut their hedges. She said the Council’s efforts to date had been “very time consuming” but stressed, “the Council will be pursuing landowners and occupiers who fail in their obligation, we will recoup costs through the Courts but we appeal to landowners and occupiers to complete their duties so we don’t have to go down that route”.
During a recent trip on the Bodyke to Broadford road, one wing mirror on the tractor of Cllr Pat Burke (FG) was smashed because of the failure of one landowner to comply with the legislation. He quipped that there was no equivalent to Kildangan Stud in East Clare with no landowner having hundreds of acres which precluded them from cutting their hedges. “It is an absolute disgrace that landowners are choosing to ignore their hedges.
While travelling further afield to North Tipperary and Co Limerick, he observed a contrast, “the hedges were all cut, whether it is the farmers or the local authorities doing the work I don’t know or do the farmers have more pride in their road frontage”. The Whitegate representative added, “there must be somebody enforcing it in other counties, you wouldn’t break a mirror in a tractor where I was in Co Limerick last week. To hell with the environment here, road safety is most important”.