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Government drops plans to trial roadside hedge-cutting in August

Roadside hedge cutting is only allowed between September and February every year.

Image: Shutterstock/Chelle129

THE GOVERNMENT IS dropping plans to trial roadside hedge-cutting this August.

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan has announced that she will not proceed with regulations that would have allowed roadside hedge-cutting to take place in August this year and in 2020.

Under the terms of the Wildlife Act, roadside hedge cutting is permitted between 1 September and the end of February only.

The law aims to protect and maintain wildlife diversity by establishing areas where wildlife can thrive during seasons when nests and flowers are more common.

The minister had been given discretionary powers under the Heritage Act 2018 to allow the trials to take place, but confirmed today that she would not proceed with them in a bid to protect Ireland’s flora and fauna.

“Hedgerows are a very important wildlife habitat, providing food, shelter, corridors of movement, nest and hibernation sites for many of our native flora and fauna,” the Minister said.

She pointed to national and international studies including the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the recent Irish Wetland Bird Survey that showed Ireland needed to give greater protection to its nature and biodiversity.

“Hedges sustain nature and from March to August they protect nesting and breeding birds and wildlife,” Madigan said.

“It would be wrong and would send out all the wrong signals to extend hedge cutting further into August this year.”

However, hedge cutting for road safety purposes will still be allowed at all times of the year, and landowners will be allowed to ensure that trees, shrubs, hedges and other vegetation will not be hazardous to road users.

Oonagh Duggan of Birdwatch Ireland welcomed the government’s decision as “a good day for nature in Ireland”.

“The Minister spoke strongly about the need to nurture nature and biodiversity, which is very welcome,” she said.

“Our hedgerows are unique features of the Irish landscape and symbolise the meeting of our natural and cultural heritage.”

Earlier this year, two men were fined by Carlow District Court after they were convicted of four offences under the Wildlife Act for hedge-cutting out of season.

Last month, TheJournal.ie also revealed how dozens of people contacted the Department to complain about the destruction of wild habitats and the felling of historic trees out of season by individuals and state bodies last year.

An Taisce has welcomed the decision today, stating that “at a time when the impact of rising global biodiversity loss is also evident in Ireland, the provisions of the Heritage Act 2018 to allow hedge cutting into August were a negative action, a step in quite the wrong direction”.

“An Taisce hopes that this decision not to facilitate hedge cutting this August will also be renewed in 2020,” the group said in a statement today.

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