CORK County Council is reminding landowners that they are obliged, under the Roads Act of 1993, to take all reasonable care to ensure that trees, ditches, hedges and other vegetation growing on their land do not pose a danger to people using or working on a public road or public footpath.
A Council spokesperson said landowners are also reminded that liability for damage, or injury resulting from such hazards, will rest with them.
The spokesperson warned that uncut hedges and trees are a serious road safety hazard and can cause substantial damage to vehicles, particularly heavy goods vehicles.
Examples of hazards include dead or dying trees, ditches or hedges interfering with traffic, blocking footpaths, obscuring road signs, public lighting, or road users’ visibility.
Landowners are required to fell, cut, log, trim or remove such trees, ditches and hedges. And the Council asked that particular attention should be given to damaged or weakened trees or limbs and stumps of felled trees as a result of storms and to ensure that all necessary work should be carried out while hedges are dormant from the beginning of September to the end of February.
Cllr Paul Hayes (Ind) addressed this issue saying: ‘While we encourage a “deep cut” at this time of year, so that come next spring, our roads are safe for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, the Council also asks landowners to be mindful of maintaining biodiversity on their land holding.’
Every summer, he said, public representatives are inundated with calls and emails about damage to cars and trucks, with wing mirrors the particular casualties of overgrown roadside trees, bushes and ditches. ‘We are also trying to encourage more cycling and walking in our communities, but they are often forced out from the verges too, and this creates an unacceptable risk to life from passing traffic.’
Cllr Hayes said some farmers and landowners are ‘fantastic custodians of the natural environment, finding the right balance between road safety and biodiversity, but others need to follow suit as there is evidence of some hedgerows being butchered completely.’
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) suggested that putting the onus on the landowners to maintain the hedgerows is ‘another cost on them.’ He suggested it should be policy to have trees measuring no more than six or seven feet at the road side.
‘It is costing bus and truck companies too much money owing to damage to their vehicles,’ he added. ‘I have seen for myself, when I am driving, heavy vehicle having to drive out onto the middle of the road to avoid overhanging branches.’