Minister Humphreys to allow flexibility for hedge cutting and burning on pilot basis
The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, has today (Wednesday) announced that she intends to introduce legislation to allow for managed hedge cutting and burning at certain times within the existing closed period on a pilot basis. The Minister has taken her decision following a review of Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts, which sets out the controls on burning and cutting of vegetation.
Following consideration of the issues involved and the submissions received, the Minister has decided to introduce changes, on a pilot two year basis, to allow for a more managed approach to the vegetation management issues which regularly arise. The legislation required to allow for these pilot measures will be included in the Heritage Bill 2015.
The pilot measures are as follows:
- Managed hedge cutting will be allowed, under strict criteria, during August to help ensure issues such as overgrown hedges impacting on roads can be tackled.
- Power will also be given to the Minister to allow for controlled burning in certain areas around the country, to be specified by the Minister, during March, should it be necessary, for example, due to adverse weather conditions.
Speaking today Minister Humphreys said:
“These two measures are designed to introduce a limited amount of flexibility to help with land management, which is of particular concern to rural dwellers. Following detailed consideration of the submissions made to the Section 40 review, I have decided to implement these two measures on a pilot basis.
“I want to ensure that a fair and balanced system is in place, while ensuring the protection of biodiversity. Managed hedge cutting will be allowed under strict criteria during August to help ensure issues such as overgrown hedges can be tackled. Changes will also be made to allow for controlled burning in certain areas of the country, to be specified by me, during March should it be necessary, for example, due to weather conditions.
“Monitoring of activity under the new provisions and an assessment of the impacts will be carried out before any decision is taken on continuing these measures beyond the pilot phase.
“This is a pragmatic approach, which will help to address some of the challenges faced by those living in rural areas. I want to strike a balance here; while hedgerows and upland areas are very important in terms of wildlife habitat, they also need to be managed in the interests of both farming and biodiversity.
“It is also my intention to launch a public awareness process so all stakeholders, including local authorities, landowners and members of the public, are fully informed as to the restrictions on hedge cutting and burning.”
The Minister announced a public consultation on Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts at the end of 2014 and almost 200 submissions were received. Under Section 40, a closed period operates from 1 March to 31 August, during which the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation is generally prohibited.
The Minister intends to enter into discussions with relevant stakeholders to explore the possibilities for gathering the data required to underpin any future decisions on the operation of Section 40. This will include data in regard to bird nesting, the level and impact of cutting and burning, and the extent and types of hedgerows.