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Hedge cutting is a sore subject in West Clare. Photograph by John Kelly.

Civil war in West Clare over road hedge cutting

A civil war has erupted in West Clare over the treatment of road verges and hedging, with half of the population insisting that they are cut and the other half determined that they be left alone.
A number of councillors urged the local Clare County Council to increase the level of hedge cutting at this week’s first meeting of the newly elected West Clare Municipal District.
However, councillor were warned that any attempt to cut hedging outside of the legal season would lead to a barrage of emails from constituents who would labelling the local authority as “environmental vandals”.
It is currently illegal to cut or destroy hedges in Ireland between March 1 and August 31, to protect vulnerable nature such as nesting birds. However, exceptions are allowed in areas where the safety of motorists is in question.
A spokesperson from Clare County Council also said that the ultimate responsibility for maintaining the hedges lay with the landowners and that the local authority would never be able to afford to maintain all the hedges in the West Clare area.
Speaking at this week’s meeting, Councillor Gabriel Keating (FG) requested that additional funding be allocated to West Clare to increase the maintenance on road verges in the area.
“I would like to request the Executive to grant additional funding for cycleways and other junctions that are compromised by overgrown grass. I think that it is something that we really need to look at,” he said.
“There are a lot of people walking and cycling, and using our roads in West Clare. There are so many things happening on the roads these days that we need to maintain them better.
“We don’t have an Active Travel Officer and a Road Safety Officer in this county and I think that we are in a unique position in this respect and we certainly need them.”
Newly elected councillor, Michael Shannon (FF) said that he has been contacted by motorists who are scared to drive because of the state of the road verges.
“One woman who contacted me wrote-off her car a few years ago at a particular junction and she is scared of her life that that will happen again. I know there needs to be a balance with nature but people need to come first,” he said.
“Hedge cutting, for the safety of people, the overgrown junctions need to be addressed.”
Independent councillor, Ian Lynch, warned that there will be a backlash if the council start cutting grass and hedge outside of the allowed season.
“We have just as many emails about cutting too much grass. As the season moves on, we will have to cut. But I have absolutely swamped with emails in the past. It’s hard issue to balance.”
A spokesperson from Clare County Council said there will be a backlash from the public if the council maintain the road verges too much.
“It is a balancing act. We have a lot of people email us asking us to cut hedges on road, but equally, when we do go out and cut the hedges, we have an equal number of people who get in contact to say that we are environmental vandals,” he said.
“The ultimate responsibility lies with the landowner. There are 14,000km of roads on the Kilrush side of the parish [Municipal District] with 2,000km of hedgerow in that. It is will take a lot of money to cut 2,000km of hedgerows. We cut junctions if there is a safety concern but I don’t think we will ever have the money or the resources to cut it all.”

About Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is a journalist, writer and podcaster based in the west of Ireland.

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