MOTORISTS are facing expensive wing and body work repairs due to damage caused by overgrown hedgerows, according to members of Cork County Council’s Western Division.
Councillors complained at their monthly meeting recently, saying there needs to be more clarity because landowners fear they will be penalised if they trim their hedgerows.
Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) said landowners are prepared to do the work but there’s just too much confusion over what is permitted and what might have an impact on their single farm payment.
Senior executive engineer John Donegan clarified the matter, saying roadside hedgesaccount for 15-20% of the overall hedges, and just half of these are at the side of the road.
‘Responsibility for the maintenance is with the owners,’ he said. ‘And they can be cut from September 1st to the end of February.’
He said it is the Council’s responsibility to cut the verges, to improve the sightline of junctions, and improve the visibility of road signs.
Mr Donegan said there was ‘no ambiguity’ in this matter and that the cutting of hedgerows is not a consideration when it comes to farm payments.
Former bus driver Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) said he has received a lot of complaints from truck and bus drivers who have had wing mirrors badly damaged by branches sticking out from the side of the road.
‘These mirrors are costing a fortune and they are bringing their complaints to us,’ said Cllr Carroll, who estimated that members of the Western Division have been complaining about a drop-off in hedge cutting standards for the last 10 years.
Mr Donegan said the Council has power to serve notice on landowners where there is a hazard, but with 12,500km of roads in the area, he said the Council is not in a position to patrol all roadside hedgerows.
‘If a road is brought to our attention,’ he added, ‘the roads department will deal with the situation.’
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) suggested that all trees at the side of the road should be kept between 6ft and 8ft tall, but Cllr Paul Hayes (Ind) disagreed, saying: ‘We need to retain our biodiversity, and hedgerows also serve a function in terms of retaining surface water.’
Cllr Collins said letters had been sent to landowners but ‘nothing has been done since.’
Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said pedestrians have to be pitied, too.
‘People are being torn to pieces with briars,’ he said of the huge numbers of people who have taken up walking since the start of the pandemic.
Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) said the Council’s roads and transportation committee is currently undertaking a review and that the Council will be writing to farm organisations asking them to notify their members that the season for hedgecutting is now open.