Local authorities must be forced to maintain hedges during the closed period, legislation allows it, and they haven’t been doing it, Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) chief executive Michael Moroney has said.

“County councils and the rest are not maintaining hedges during the closed period despite legislation stating that they can cut them back where road safety becomes a concern,” Moroney told the Irish Farmers Journal.

“They need to be forced to maintain the hedges, especially this year where poor weather conditions have prevented a lot of cutting taking place.

“In June when the cow parsley is five feet off the ground, road conditions will be deplorable.”

Respect to conservation

The FCI has called for stronger legislation to be put in place which reassures local authorities that they can maintain all roadside hedges and trees during the closed period which is set to begin on 1 March.

The call was made in a submission to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and applies to all sections of public roads.

The FCI has said that through the planning process, local authorities can also ensure that hedgerows are given due regard, with respect to conservation and road safety.

Hedgerows are estimated to cover 3.9% of the Irish landscape or 660,000km in length, according to the Climate Action Plan 2019.

Cab sticker

The FCI also warns that its members regularly face challenges from members of the public when they are attending to hedge management for road safety reasons.

In its submission to the Department, the FCI also calls for a tractor cab hedgerow information sticker with NPWS support.

Hedge management services

The proposed cab sticker would be supplied to FCI members who are verified by the association to provide hedge management services.

The identity of the operator would be detailed on the sticker in an effort to avoid misunderstandings in relation to road safety work activities.

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