An agricultural contractor and a farmer won a court case that was taken against them by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in relation to hedge-cutting, according to the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors of Ireland (FCI).

However, the association stressed that the result should not be “considered as open season to cut hedges”.

Reacting to the outcome of the case in a short statement today (Wednesday, May 19), the FCI said:

“Great news this week as an FCI member and his farmer client won their court case against the NPWS who were attempting to prosecute them for removing a hedge to allow for farm fencing in the out-of-season period.

“The judge ruled that the work was considered to be ‘in the ordinary course of agriculture’ as in Section 40 of the Wildlife Act and they won their case.

“A good result for all hedge-cutting contractors – but not to be considered as ‘open season’ to cut hedges.

“FCI was happy to have provided support and advice,” the association concluded.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has previously warned that there is a “zero tolerance” approach to the illegal cutting of hedges between March 1 and August 31 each year.

Dates for the cutting of hedges are set down in primary legislation under the Wildlife Acts. Section 40 of the Act prohibits the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation, with certain strict exemptions, from March 1, to August 31.

There is provision in the legislation for some restricted exemptions from the prohibition during the closed period, the NPWS noted.

Examples of these include: works undertaken in the ordinary course of agriculture or forestry; for health and safety reasons; the destruction of noxious weeds, in respect of works permitted under statute and for works undertaken for road safety reasons.

Both landowners and public authorities can take reasonable steps to address hedges and trees for road safety reasons at any time of the year, it was noted.