The well-being of nesting birds is more important than any potential danger to motorists. That’s the view of Cllr Michael Holmes on National Parks and Wildlife policy on hedge-cutting.
Cllr Holmes who said he was personally involved in an accident after a 16-inch-thick tree branch fell on the back of his wife’s car and argued that not enough was being done to protect motorists.
“The National Parks and Wildlife Service won’t let you cut trees or bushes on the roadside in the summer because of the birds,” he told last week’s Roads and Transportation policy meeting. “They’ve no issue with someone coming out and being in danger as a result of not cutting those trees.”
Cllr Holmes went on to tell the meeting of his recent narrow escape.
“I was going to Westport from Newport recently, my wife was driving and I was in the passenger side. The top of the truck coming against us caught a tree that was growing out onto the road. The branch hit the back of our car and the front of the car behind us. It was no small bush or anything, it was a branch of a tree 16 inches in diameter. If it had hit the front of the car we were in serious trouble.
“I know myself from driving commercial vehicles that roads in this country are exceptionally bad for this type of thing, and people’s lives are being put in danger. The EU Habitat Directive says that safety overrules wildlife concerns and it is clear to me that a tree will only be cut for safety reasons.
“I don’t think birds will be nesting along the roadside anyway. With all the regulations coming in, this county is going to be a jungle. There’ll be plenty of places for the birds but none for the humans,” said Cllr Holmes.
Senior Engineer with Mayo County Council, Padraig Walsh told the meeting that council budgets were very restricted, but that in the case of dangerous trees, landowners have a responsibility.
“We have a very limited budget for hedge-cutting. All indications are budgets will be even tighter next year. There is also an onus on landowners to deal with dangerous trees. We would like a larger budget but it may not be possible [to get one],” he said.