Hedge cutting for road safety rule retention welcomed by contractors

The Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) has given its take on recent announcements on hedge cutting.

In a short statement, the FCI said it is pleased that the Minister for Heritage, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, “has retained the regulations to allow for roadside hedges to be cut for reasons of road safety”.

“At FCI we urge local authorities to be proactive in engaging FCI member contractors who have the latest machines and the skills to use them to ensure that all rural roads are maintained in a safe way for all road users.”

This, according to the association, includes: “car drivers; truck and bus drivers; as well as walkers; and cyclists – not to mention our own member tractors.”

The contractor organisation called for authorities to do this through “timely maintenance programmes”.

FCI will be seeking a user-friendly approach to seeking permits for such work by landowner contractor clients who want to ensure road safety for their roadside hedges.

The move comes following the announcement earlier this week of the move to scrap proposed legislation to allow earlier hedge cutting.

Ministerial announcement

In a statement, Minister Madigan said that her decision “recognises the increased threats to biodiversity nationally and globally and follows a number of Government initiatives to protect and nurture Ireland’s flora and fauna”.

Under the Heritage Act 2018, the minister was given discretionary powers to allow hedge cutting in August on a trial basis in 2019 and 2020.

“Hedgerows are a very important wildlife habitat, providing food, shelter, corridors of movement, nest and hibernation sites for many of our native flora and fauna.

“While the Heritage Act made provision to allow the cutting of roadside hedges in August on a pilot basis, it’s clear from recent international and national studies…that we need to provide greater protection to our nature and biodiversity,” Minister Madigan said.

Hedge cutting for the purpose of road safety is still permitted, with the minister saying: “It is still open to landowners under the Roads Act 1993 to take reasonable steps to ensure that a tree, shrub, hedge or other vegetation is not a hazard or potential hazard to persons using a public road.

“I am happy that this decision strikes the correct balance between the need to protect nature on the one hand and ensure public safety on our roads on the other.”