Stand-off with council over hedge cutting in Limerick

Colm Ward

Reporter:

Colm Ward

Sisters Caroline and Annmarie Barnes making a stand to prevent council workers cutting hedges bounding their property in Ballybrown on Monday morning. Picture: Michael Cowhey
Council workers were prevented from cutting hedges in Ballybrown on Monday after a two-hour standoff in which two local residents blocked their machines.

Council workers were prevented from cutting hedges in Ballybrown on Monday after a two-hour standoff in which two local residents blocked their machines.

Sisters Caroline and Annmarie Barnes made their stand as workers prepared to trim the hedges bounding their property close to Clarina Cross. A standoff ensued, during which gardai were called and spoke with the Barnes sisters. Eventually, the council workers left the area, leaving the remaining hedges uncut.

This is the second time in a month the council has tried and failed to cut the hedge.

Caroline Barnes told the Limerick Leader that the council had not sought permission to cut the hedging along the front of their property which is on the road between Clarina Village and Ballybrown school and church.

“We stopped them by pointing out that they didn’t have our permission to cut the hedges and that they were breaching the Wildlife Act,” she said.

She added that they had always maintained their own hedges and would continue to do so.

Ms Barnes also pointed out that they had a dispute with the council going back almost four years when workers dug up a section of hedging along their property boundary to allow for speed signs to erected. She claimed they had received assurances that this hedge would be replanted but that this had never happened.

As a result, a number of 50-year-old trees on their property had been damaged by wind as there was no longer any protection for them. She also claimed that the removal of the hedge posed a safety hazard as it could allow cattle in a nearby field to get onto the road.

In a statement this week, Limerick City and County Council said it been asked to cut the hedge back as it was restricting sightlines for drivers.

“The Council received representations to cut back this hedgerow and proceeded to do so during the second week of March,” a spokesperson said.

“The Council was prevented by the individuals concerned who stood in front of the machine even with the presence of a garda from Patrickswell.

“Subsequently, the Council served a Notice under the Roads Act on the property owner requiring her to cut back the hedge but this didn’t happen.”

The spokesperson added that there is a provision in the Wildlife Act, “whereby trees and hedgerows may be cut during the growing season of April 1 to September 30 where an issue of public safety is involved”.

However, Ms Barnes said she never received any notice from the council. She claimed the only contact with the council was when Cllr Sean Lynch arrived with a local garda at her property on March 18. There was nobody in the house at the time and the garda attempted to open a side gate to gain entry.

“My sister was in the garden at the time when she saw this head coming over the gate and she got the fright of her life,” said Ms Barnes.

However, Cllr Lynch has pointed out that he was simply accompanying the garda in his capacity as a councillor for the area in an attempt resolve the situation. “The hedge is coming out onto the road and it is obscuring the view of anyone coming out from the church,” he said, adding that there had been a fatal accident on that stretch of road in recent months.

He explained that the garda pushed open the side gate only after noticing that there was someone in the back garden. “He had no choice but to check once he saw someone there in case it could have been a burglar,” Cllr Lynch added.

“The garda was there on his own behalf to explain why it was dangerous and I was there as a local councillor and as a peace-maker to explain why people were concerned,” he said. “Me as a local councillor, the council as a local authority and the gardai can’t stand idly by and allow this to continue. What if there was another fatality there? They have to comply”