No changes to the hedgecutting laws until September (at the earliest)

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, it is understood.

It is not anticipated that the Heritage Bill will be discussed in Seanad Eireann before the summer recess, meaning the earliest opportunity for the Bill to be discussed will be September.

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

The legislation required to allow for these pilot measures was included in the Heritage Bill 2016, which was published in January 2016 and subsequently completed Second Stage in Seanad Éireann.

Speaking in the Dail this week on the matter, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, said that “steps are in hand to reintroduce the Heritage Bill into Seanad Éireann at the earliest opportunity“.

In the meantime, she said that 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 announced proposals in December 2015 to introduce legislation to allow for managed hedgecutting and burning at certain times within the existing closed period.

Also speaking in the Dail this week on the hedgecutting issue was the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed who said he was supportive of the provisions in the Heritage Bill 2016.