Farm Ireland

Sunday 22 July 2018

'Rural road safety demands passage of new hedgecutting rules': Divisive Heritage bill returns to Dail

As it stands, hedge-cutting and gorse burning are prohibited between March 1 and August 31.
As it stands, hedge-cutting and gorse burning are prohibited between March 1 and August 31.
Most political parties favour relaxing the regulations further to allow limited burning of land during March and hedge-cutting during August
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The controversial Heritage Bill was back in the Dail for debate this week with key elements of the new legislation continuing to be divisive.

The Bill is now entering report stage in the Dáil and contains a range of measures relating to the Heritage Council, Ireland’s canals and wildlife.

However, the element of the bill creating most difficulty a pilot measure allowing the managed hedge-cutting in respect of roadside hedges only; this will be allowed, under strict criteria, during August to tackle issues such as overgrown hedges impacting on roads.

As it stands, hedge-cutting and gorse burning are prohibited between March 1 and August 31.

The provision also allows for controlled burning in certain areas around the country – to be specified by regulation – during the month of March, should it be necessary.

Commenting on the changes contained in The Heritage Bill, farmer organisation the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) has welcomed the changes and said that they are proportionate and necessary for driver safety on rural roads.

Denis Drennan, Chairperson of ICMSA Farm & Rural Affairs Committee, said that Heritage Bill – which is at Report and Final Stage in the Dail currently – was a considered and environmentally ‘proofed’ piece of legislation that balanced carefully the need to protect and foster the wildlife and environment with the requirement to allow safe driving on rural roads.  

Mr. Drennan said it was no more than stating a fact to observe that many rural roads were made incredibly dangerous to use by overgrown hedges and completely obscured sightlines.  

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He noted that anyone who drives regularly on rural roads will know about the dangers presented by crossroads without any clear sightlines for both cars or agri-machinery but even more so for pedestrians. 

Mr Drennan said it is simply a fact that we have to be able to see down the road if we’re to be able to proceed safely and that can’t be done unless we make the changes contained in the Heritage Bill," said Mr Drennan.

However, many environmental groups strongly disagree with the proposed changes which they claim will have a hugely negative impact on nesting birds and other wildlife.

They also challenge the road safety arguments for the Bill.

An Taisce has said that exemptions to the provisions of the Wildlife Act already exist under the current legislation for health and safety reasons.

The Road Safety Act specifically allows for hedge-cutting to be carried out at any time of the year for “reasons of public health or safety by a Minister of the Government or a body established or regulated by or under a statute”, it says.

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