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People warned that tall trees may cause 'distress' to neighbours

Terence Flanagan said that planning laws needed to be updated to include tree height.

LEGISLATION SHOULD BE updated to prevent people from allowing their trees to grow beyond a certain height, the Dáil has heard.

Independent TD Terence Flanagan has said that tall trees can cause “unnecessary stress” to neighbours of tree owners.

He asked junior minister Fergus O’Dowd if the government would consider updating current planning laws or implementing something similar to the the High Hedges Legislation that exists in Northern Ireland and the UK.

O’Dowd said that he would “give consideration” to the issues raised by Flanagan but ruled out introducing a ‘high hedge’ law as it would have ”significant resource implications”.

Flanagan said that a constituent had come to him after a neighbour ignored her concerns about a leylandii tree in her garden, which could reach 60ft in height.

He said that if the tree fell it “could cause significant damage and destroy her property”.

Shutterstock-156740390 A line of Leylandii trees. Source: Shutterstock

Flanagan noted that people had a responsibility to ensure that “their trees are at a reasonable height to not cause distress to their neighbours”.

He added that it was “important for residents to have natural light coming into their property” – a lack of which could negatively affect the value of their home.

Mediation

Flanagan has raised the issue in chamber on a number of occasions in the past.

In April, the then justice minister Alan Shatter remarked that under existing law “a person may be in a position to seek damages or an injunction requiring the cutting of boundary hedges or trees under the tort of nuisance”.

In this instance, Shatter said that the person concerned would have to show that there had been “an easement of light” at their property.

flan Source: Oireachtas TV

Shatter said he intended to bring forward a mediation bill “to promote mediation as a viable, effective and efficient alternative to court proceedings, thereby reducing legal costs and speeding up the resolution of disputes”.

In October 2013, housing minister Jan O’Sullivan told Flanagan she had “no current plans” to introduce leigslation that would restrict the height of trees and hedges.

Flanagan noted that a number of local authorities have planted trees and “failed to prune them”.

Fingal County Council are unable to prune or cut down trees because they don’t have the resources.

The Dublin North-East TD said he had raised “very genuine concerns” that need to be “looked at seriously”.

Read: One per cent of ALL the trees in Ireland’s forests fell down in the storms

Read: Column: Can big data save our planet’s forests?

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Órla Ryan

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