Councillors in the Ballina Municipal District expressed their dismay this week that the council had to get permission from landowners to cut hedges that could be causing road safety issues.
Outlining the works programme underway in the district, Theresa Durkin, senior executive engineer for the local authority told the meeting that hedge cutting was underway on local roads but: "The hedges belong to the land owners and we need to get permission from them as well, and in some situations we haven’t received permission."
Fine Gael Cllr Jarlath Munnelly queried the need to get permission from land owners, to which Durkin replied: "Yes, we have, I’m not being funny - the landowner owns the hedge and I will not give the people's names, there hasn’t been many, but we can’t just go in and cut.
"There is a process - if we decide we want to go and cut for safety reasons we still have to go to the landowner and say can we have permission, and nine times out of ten there is no problem whatsoever, but some people have had some degree of difficulty. Sometimes there may have been a falling out or it would not be the run of the mill at all."
Cllr Munnelly responded saying: "This is the first I have heard of it from a road safety point of view, I thought the council could go in and cut hedges. We can talk all day about it being the landowner's property and responsibility and the roads act says that, but for road safety measures, that hedge cutting can be done."
Cllr Seamus Weir interjected saying: "I know what you are saying, cutting across a fence, but up along the side of the road" to which Durkin replied: "No, that is just hedge falling and hedge trimming - hedge cutting is different."
Cllr Weir then asked: "Any trees across the road that is interfering with the roads - that would be the council to cut the trees?" to which he was told: "If you are going off the verge and into someone's fence line that is their property and the situation is that we don’t want to end up in court."
Giving an example of what he was talking, about Cllr Weir said: "Are you saying to me if a tree is inside a fence or a ditch and bramble is coming across the road, you have to ask permission to cut it?" to which he was told: "You have to ask permission, yes."
An exasperated Cllr Weir responded: "Well my god, that needs to go to Government - that needs legislation" and Cllr Munnelly added: "That is bananas - I would cut away on road safety grounds, they haven’t a leg to stand on I’d say."
Durkin told the members that the council did end up in court over the matter a few years previous and that they wanted to avoid that. Cllr Weir said that he would be raising the issue at the next meeting of the council's Strategic Policy Committee on Roads.