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Tidy towns chair in hot water after cutting hedge

HE trimmed a hedge to help spruce up his village for the annual civic pride competition.

But village butcher Peter Rogers has found himself in hot water with officials and was slapped with a court appearance.

Along with John Cassidy, Mr Rogers, from Moynalty, Co Meath, appeared at Kells Court last week to answer to charges of illegally trimming hedgerows out of season.

Mr Rogers chairs the Moynalty Tidy Towns committee which has won the coveted title of "Tidiest Village" in Co Meath for the past 15 years.

But following an anonymous tip-off by a disgruntled local, he and Mr Cassidy were charged with destroying vegetation, after the sides and tops of two sections of hedgerow leading into the town were illegally trimmed last June.

Mr Rogers was told to pay €300 to a wildlife fund after the judge found he breached the Wildlife Act.

Under Section 40 of the act, it is illegal "to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy hedgerows on uncultivated land during the nesting season from 1 March to 31 August, subject to certain exceptions."

However, the judge said he would strike out the offence because the defendant had done so in the best interests of the village.

Mr Rogers said he still finds the whole ordeal a bit "bizarre".

But Annette Lynch, a conservation officer with the National Parks and Wildlife Service told the court that she recalled Mr Rogers telling a Tidy Towns meeting how the village had previously lost marks in the competition due to the untidy state of its uncut hedges: a fact that Mr Roger's solicitor Jimmy Walsh didn't deny.

Mr Rogers conceded he unwittingly breached the law and vowed not to trim the hedges again during the restricted period.

But he said he still found the law a bit silly.

"The act is to protect nesting birds but we weren't cutting anywhere near where birds would be nesting," he said.

However, a spokesman for the Environment Department said the law was an important one to "protect bird life during the nesting season, to prevent forest fires, and to protect vegetation".

Irish Independent