BY KIERAN O’MAHONY
SAFETY should come first when it comes to hedgecutting at junctions and blind spots on the roads of West Cork. Several councillors called for a ‘common sense approach’ at a meeting of the West Cork Municipal District Council this week.
Cllr Michael Collins said numerous constituents, including bus drivers and truck drivers, have been contacting him over the issue.
‘We should take control of the process, it’s dangerous and above all it will lead to deaths on the road if drivers don’t have clear vision. There is a serious urgency to this,’ said Cllr Collins.
This comes on the back of an ongoing legal action being taken against a Cork County Council engineer over the cutting of hedges on health and safety grounds in West Cork.
Cllr Joe Carroll said that the health and safety of people on the roads should always supersede wildlife: ‘While the council are no longer in charge of cutting hedges there is the situation that, in the event of a junction or sharp bend, they would be done by the council, but now I understand there is a ongoing legal action being pursued,’ Cllr Carroll told The Southern Star.
‘This has to be addressed as our staff can’t be threatened by legal action and it’s proper order that junctions should be trimmed. Common sense should always prevail when it comes to this and it has to be dealt with and it has to stop.’
Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy said it was ‘scandalous that there is an issue of health and safety and that the council should support engineers where work should be carried out.’
Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan said ‘when it comes down to health and safety, an engineer should always be free to make a call and we as a Municipal District should support that.’
Exemptions currently exist to allow hedge cutting by local authorities on health and safety grounds and the Roads Act 1993 obliges landowners to ensure that trees and shrubs are not a hazard to road users. County Council ceased the hedge cutting service on regional and local roads in 2010 and, since then, the responsibility lies with landowners who by law cannot trim or cut ditches or hedges from March 1st to August 31st, as set down by Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2012. However councillors said there is still confusion over this.
Cllr Declan Hurley called for a PR exercise before March to tell landowners to cut them.
‘We have to bring in different agencies in September to get the message across to landowners as the buck stops with them as Cork County Council will never again come to cut hedges,’ said Cllr Hurley.
Cllr Paul Hayes said that particularly in West Cork people were still under the impression that Cork County Council is responsible for it.
‘In Co Clare there’s a scheme running where community groups can come to the Council for funding and we should start a pilot project like that here in Cork. It’s frustrating and we’re telling farmers that it’s up to them. It’s not uncommon for people to lose their wing mirrors off their cars or buses,’ said Cllr Hayes.
A spokesperson from Cork County Council said they could not comment due to the ongoing legal issue.