Here’s how many people have been prosecuted for illegal hedgecutting

Figures obtained by the Irish Wildlife Trust under a recent freedom of information enquiry has revealed that since 2011, there have been 40 prosecutions for illegal hedgecutting, with the majority of cases having a fine imposed.

The Irish Wildlife Trust is highlighting that the ban on hedgecutting still runs until August 31.

It says it has received numerous calls from around the country regarding illegal hedgecutting this summer and there is now a real concern that this will escalate during the month of August.

There will be no changes to the current legislation to allow farmers to manage hedgecutting and burning at certain times within the existing closed period before September this year.

New legislation to allow hedgecutting and burning at certain times on a two-year pilot basis was to be introduced this spring but was delayed due to the formation of a new Government.

The legislation is to allow managed hedgecutting, under strict criteria, during August to help ensure issues such as overgrown hedges impacting on roads can be tackled.

In the meantime, the existing provisions relating to Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts are still in operation.

Currently, Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts 1976, as amended, prohibits the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation, with certain strict exemptions, from March 1 to August 31.

It was following a review of Section 40, which involved, inter alia, consideration of submissions from interested parties, that the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Rural Affairs, Heather Humphreys announced proposals in December 2015 to introduce legislation to allow for managed hedgecutting and burning at certain times within the existing closed period.

Speaking in the Dail earlier this year on the issue, the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed said he was supportive of the provisions in the Heritage Bill 2016.