May 15th, 2019
A Green Party politician has challenged Kildare County Council over the cutting of hedgerows during the nesting season as part of the M7 upgrade.
Posting a video on her Twitter account earlier this week, Lorna Bogue rebuked what she described as “butchering hedgerows” on the M7 along the Naas to Newbridge road.
The Wildlife Act currently restricts the cutting, burning or destruction of vegetation on uncultivated land or in hedges or ditches during the nesting and breeding season for birds and wildlife from 1 March to 31 August.
Earlier this month, two men in Co Laois have been found guilty and convicted under the Wildlife Act for hedgerow destruction during the nesting season.
The M7 three-lane motorway project stretching from Naas to Rossbrien on the outskirts of Limerick City started in January 2018 and was expected to finish in April. Works have subsequently been extended to ensure completion of works.
The project aims to widen the road for a stretch of almost 14km between junction eight at Johnstown to the M7 and the M9 interchange at intersection 11.
Speaking to The Green News, Ms Bogue said that she has inquired with the Department of Transport as well as the National Transport Authority (NTA) as to the reasons for the hedgerow felling at part of the road upgrade project.
Expressing concern over possible damage to wildlife, Ms Bogue said that if an adequate schedule for the project was in place, the works to remove the hedges should have taken place outside of the nesting season.
“There is no excuse for this as the cutting season is already a massive compromise,” Ms Bogue said, adding that she is keen to find out the details of the project’s planning permissions and work schedule.
In a statement to The Green News, Kildare County Council’s National Roads Office said that the project’s planning permission allows for “vegetation clearance” during bird nesting season while stipulating adherence to “best practice ecological guidelines for the protection of birds”.
“Areas where site clearance / vegetation clearance is being undertaken are first subject to nesting bird surveys prior to any clearance works commencing.
“Site clearance only proceeds in areas where it has been established from the surveys that there is no nesting activity,” the statement read.
According to the council, hedgerow removal along the M7 is planned to “accommodated new drainage lines and carriageway widening”. It added that mitigating plans including replacing the affected trees by planting new hedges along the M7 mainline have already been devised.
Tree felling – a growing national issue
Sinn Féin MEP, Liadh Ní Riada has recently raised the issue of tree felling at the European Parliament, stating that her constituents have repeatedly brought the issue to her attention in recent weeks.
“Over the past number of weeks, I have had numerous complaints from constituents right across Munster and South Leinster about tree felling happening in their areas,” she said.
“To that end today I specifically asked the European Commission if it holds the view that felled trees should be replaced as a matter of course and does it agree that local authorities in Ireland should develop and implement a policy on trees based on the principles of sustainability?”
Ireland’s MEP for South called on Government bodies to practice “transparency” when it comes to the issue of tree felling. “A lot of unease and upset could be greatly reduced with just a little more transparency and accountability from our local authorities,” she said.