Motorists are ‘taking their lives into their hands’ by having to travel in the middle of certain roads due to unmaintained hedges in Co Clare.
Fine Gael Cllr Joe Cooney requested Clare County Council to implement “the road hedge cutting policy before schools reopen in the interest of road safety”.
Under Section 70 of the Roads Act 1993, landowners are responsible for trees, hedgerows etc. on or inside their boundaries adjacent to public roads. The Act obliges landowners and occupiers to take all reasonable care to ensure that such trees, hedges and other vegetation are not or could not become a danger to people using or working on a public road. Section 40 of the Wildlife Act, 1976 as amended by Section 46 of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 restricts the cutting of hedges during the growing season (between March 1st and August 31st).
Administrative Officer with the Council’s roads and transportation department, John Corry in response to Cooney’s motion said their hedge cutting policy “is set against the background that local authorities have an overseeing role and responsibility to ensure that public roads are free of obstruction and impediment including the requirement that overgrown trees, verges, hedgerows etc. do not interfere in any way with the effective and safe operation of the public road network”.
Corry said that the Community Hedge cutting Grant Scheme introduced in 2013 has led to more landowners maintaining and managing their own roadside hedgerows. The availability of this scheme will be advertised in the coming weeks to facilitate those wishing to cut trees and hedges from September 1st, he confirmed.
“Some of our roads are impassable,” Cllr Cooney replied. “It was a treat to drive to Lahinch to see lovely condition of the hedges that side of the country. We have to think of road safety, we don’t want to let all the good work go undone, the state of some roads is unbelievable” The O’Callaghans Mills representative was keen for the local authority “get into action” by the end of August, “now is the time to let landowners know their responsibility. The most important thing is for our roads to be in a safe manner to travel on which they are not at the minute”.
“Every summer we’re having a debate on this issue, health and safety takes paramount over everything else in my view,” Cllr Pat Hayes stated. Independent councillor, PJ Ryan pointed out, “tourists in buses around Bunratty and Knappogue are having to virtually drive in the middle of the road”.
Adding his support to the motion, Cllr Pat Burke commented, “I’ve always been very critical of landowners that don’t cut their hedges”. He noted that “nothing was said by the environmentalists” of the cutting done on the road towards Inagh prior to The Irish Open, “Cllr Garvey is not here but I’m sure she would be tackling Cllr Cooney on this one. Some landowners will cut their hedges, others won’t and it’s an absolute disgrace”.
“In the interest of road safety is the key but it doesn’t mean everything has to be cut back to the minimum like Lahinch,” Fianna Fáil’s Cillian Murphy remarked.
Senior engineer of the Council’s roads and transportation department, John Leahy informed the July meeting that notices have been served to farmers not complying with advertisements ran in local newspapers to raise awareness. He confirmed they would be cutting hedges “in strategic locations” from September 1st.
“Safety on our roads is very important. The hedges are causing damages to vehicles which is not good enough. On some roads you’re taking your life into your hand because you have to travel in the middle of the road to get past. I want a commitment that all roads be brought to a proper standard,” Cllr Cooney concluded.