Rathfarnham hedge-cutting criticised by local group

Published by Niall Sargent on

July 19th, 2019

The decision by South Dublin County Council to carry out hedge-cutting in Rathfarnham this week during the height of the bird nesting season has been criticised by a local campaign group.

Photos of the hedge-cutting operation along a stretch of Killakee Road yesterday were shared on social media by the campaign group Save the Hellfire.

The group said that cutting also took place this week along the junction of Gunny Hill from Stocking Lane to Scholarstown, although no photos were provided.

The cutting of hedges is prohibited under the Wildlife Act during the nesting and breeding season for birds from 1 March to 31 August except for road safety issues.

In a statement, the Council said that it is “sometimes necessary” to cut back tall grasses, briars and general weeds growing on roadsides “where they impact on pedestrian or traffic safety”

This includes areas where road signage is in danger of becoming less visible, the Council said, with summer cutting only carried out on an “emergency basis” at junctions of rural roads and overgrown areas.

The Council did not provide any response to requests from The Green News for documentation outlining the road safety issues in this case or why cutting did not take place outside of the prohibited season.  

In addition, the Council did not provide any details on the exact length of hedgerow and roadside verges cut.

Hedgecutting in Co Dublin July 2019 Photo: Save the Hellfire

Last week, the Minister for Heritage Josepha Madigan TD announced that she will not proceed with regulations that would have allowed for roadside hedge cutting this August on a trial basis.

Conservation groups say that cutting during this period has a negative impact on birds, pollinators and other species that rely on hedgerows for food, shelter, as corridors of movement, and for nesting and hibernation.

Ms Madigan said that she made the decision as it is clear from both recent international and national studies that “we need to provide greater protection” for biodiversity.

“It would be wrong and would send out all the wrong signals to extend hedge cutting further into August this year,” she said.

This message about protecting our biodiversity, however, has “not filtered through to the powers that be at South Dublin County Council”, according to Grainne Corcoran of Save the Hellfire.

The images shared on social media, she said, show that the Council’s “biodiversity destruction plan” is in full swing, “cutting margins in full flower & breasting hedges on Killakee Road during peak nesting season”.

Ms Corcoran said that cutting a two-foot strip along the roadside would be sufficient if the Council wants to ensure road safety.

However, she said, taking out the entire shoulder and breasting the hedge is “unnecessary”, especially as the hedge is mostly “well back from the roadside” along the stretch that was cut.

Hedgecutting in Co Dublin July 2019 Photo: Save the Hellfire

Speaking at a hearing of the Oireachtas Heritage Committee earlier this month, Oonagh Duggan of BirdWatch Ireland said that the conservation group has seen a “huge increase in people’s concerns” about hedge cutting.

“Hedge cutting during the bird breeding period between 1 March and 31 August is the top complaint we receive at BirdWatch Ireland,” she said, both along roadsides and infield clearance on agricultural land.  

She told the committee that the provisions in the Wildlife Act that allow for cutting on road safety grounds are “really important” as “we are all road users and we need to use the road safely”.

She added, however, that the group feels this line of reasoning may be used to cut hedgerows where there might not be an obvious road safety concern. “It is used and possibly abused a little,” she said.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London