BY JACKIE KEOGH
MINISTERIAL plans to extend the hedge-cutting and burning season have been welcomed as ‘a commonsense approach to the problem’ by Independent councillor, Declan Hurley.
Speaking at a meeting of the Municipal District of West Cork on Monday, Cllr Hurley maintained that the current deadlines are ‘not practical’ and he welcomed a two-year pilot proposal to allow hedge-cutting start one month earlier on August 1st 2016.
Under the new proposals, the councillor, who is also the chairperson of Cork County Councils Roads and Transport Special Policy Committee, said hedge cutting would continue until the end of February. And – in relation to the burning of gorse and scrub – Cllr Hurley said: ‘The season is to be extended on the two-year trial basis, starting in March 2016.’
Cllr Hurley said: ‘The extension of the burning season will reduce the risk of wild fires, allow better vegetation management, and keep land eligible for EU payment schemes.’
The news comes after more than a year of lobbying during a review of the practices that was commissioned by the Fine Gael TD and Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys.
The legislation needed for these pilot measures to be implemented is expected to be included in the Heritage Bill 2015.
Cllr Hurley said: ‘I’m glad the minister is finally making a commonsense approach to what is a real issue for farmers, particularly those on hill and mountain land.
‘Burning is a vital management tool to ensure that land is kept suitable for grazing, is not overgrown, and is not abandoned due to restrictive deadlines.’
However, the councillor did specify that the burning of vegetation in March ‘can only be carried out where this is specified by the minister, such as in cases where adverse weather conditions has prevented necessary, controlled burning being carried out earlier in the season.’
Hedge cutting in the extended periods and its impact will also be monitored during the pilot phase, according to Cllr Hurley and ‘only then will a final decision be made’.