Au­gust hedgerow cut­ting plans dropped

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - NEWS -

THE gov­ern­ment has dropped plans to al­low road­side hedge cut­ting dur­ing Au­gust this year.

The Min­is­ter for Cul­ture Her­itage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madi­gan TD an­nounced last week that she will not now go ahead with reg­u­la­tions that would have al­lowed gen­eral road­side hedge cut­ting dur­ing Au­gust on a trial ba­sis.

Un­der the Her­itage Act 2018, Min­is­ter Madi­gan has the dis­cre­tionary power to al­low the cut­ting of road­side hedges dur­ing the month of Au­gust in 2019 and 2020. How­ever, the Min­is­ter pointed out the key role hedgerows play and the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing na­ture.

‘While the Her­itage Act made pro­vi­sion to al­low the cut­ting of road­side hedges in Au­gust on a pi­lot ba­sis, it’s clear from re­cent in­ter­na­tional and na­tional stud­ies in­clud­ing the IPBES Re­port, the UN Con­ven­tion on Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity and the re­cent Ir­ish Wet­land Bird Sur­vey that we need to pro­vide greater pro­tec­tion to our na­ture and bio­di­ver­sity,’ said the Min­is­ter.

‘Hedges sus­tain na­ture and from March to Au­gust they protect nest­ing and breed­ing birds and wildlife. It would be wrong and would send out all the wrong sig­nals to ex­tend hedge cut­ting fur­ther into Au­gust this year,’ she said.

Hedgerow cut­ting in Au­gust can im­pact on late-nest­ing bird species while the hedges are a source of food for wild bees, but­ter­flies and other mammals. How­ever, hedgerow cut­ting for road safety pur­poses is still per­mit­ted at all times of the year.

The Min­is­ter con­tin­ued: ‘It is still open to landown­ers un­der the Roads Act 1993 to take rea­son­able steps to en­sure that a tree, shrub, hedge or other vege­ta­tion is not a hazard or po­ten­tial hazard to per­sons us­ing a pub­lic road and that it does not ob­struct or in­ter­fere with the safe use of a pub­lic road or the main­te­nance of a pub­lic road. Un­der the terms of the Wildlife Act, road­side hedge cut­ting is per­mit­ted be­tween Septem­ber 1 and the end of Fe­bru­ary.’

‘I am happy that this de­ci­sion strikes the cor­rect bal­ance be­tween the need to protect na­ture on the one hand and en­sure pub­lic safety on our roads on the other.’

Bird­Watch Ire­land, which is based in Kil­coole, has welcomed the Min­is­ter’s de­ci­sion as a ‘good day for Ire­land’.

‘We are de­lighted that Min­is­ter Madi­gan has seen the light when it comes to the Her­itage Act and that she has shelved changes to the laws on hedge-cut­ting,’ said Oon­agh Dug­gan from Bird­Watch Ire­land.

Re­search by the group on late-nest­ing birds iden­ti­fied the im­por­tance of hedgerows, with Yel­lowham­mer in par­tic­u­lar threat­ened by the changes to hedge-cut­ting laws which were passed in the Her­itage Act. It found that there were 23 other species nest­ing well into Au­gust, and the lat­est date on which Yel­lowham­mers were recorded as still nest­ing was Septem­ber 24 2018.

‘The Min­is­ter spoke strongly about the need to nurture na­ture and bio­di­ver­sity, which is very wel­come. Our hedgerows are unique fea­tures of the Ir­ish land­scape and sym­bol­ise the meet­ing of our nat­u­ral and cul­tural her­itage. We call on the Min­is­ter to set up a Fo­rum to de­liver a Na­tional Hedgerow Con­ser­va­tion Strat­egy to en­sure their long-term con­ser­va­tion,’ said Ms Dug­gan.

As part of this strat­egy, Bird­Watch Ire­land would like to see a be­spoke law pro­tect­ing hedgerows and guid­ance on the cor­rect main­te­nance of them for the ben­e­fit of wildlife.

The de­ci­sion was also welcomed by An Taisce, which de­scribed it as a ‘wel­come re­prieve’ for our pre­cious bio­di­ver­sity.

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