Storm Betty highlights the ‘danger’ around ash dieback – senator

The impact of Storm Betty demonstrated the “danger” around unmanaged trees and exposed the issue of public safety around ash dieback, according to Senator Victor Boyhan.

The senator said that following the storm, it was “clear” to see that all over the countryside ash die-back trees, wood and branches lay on public roadways.

He is calling on the government to provide funding for local authorities and landowners towards the removal of the trees.

Senator Boyhan has called for each of the 31 local authorities to be “empowered to fund, coordinate and administer a new government fund”.

He said this way, works can begin to tackle the issue, provided consultation occurs with property owners, farmers, foresters and local farm organisations impacted by ash dieback.

Landowners with ash dieback

Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts restricts the cutting of vegetation growing in hedges during the nesting and breeding season for birds and wildlife, from March 1 to August 31.

However, Senator Boyhan pointed out that there are exemptions to this law, which allow for tree and hedge cutting if there are concerns for safety.

“A major concern as the disease spreads is the risk of accidents occurring due to trees falling or branches dropping.

“The danger will increase as older trees become infected. This will have serious implications for forest owners, particularly if the trees are growing close to public roadways,” Senator Boyhan said.

He warned that if a tree falls and causes damage, the owner of the tree is liable.

Section 70 of the Roads Act 1993 places a statutory obligation on all landowners or occupiers of land to ensure that trees do not present a danger to those using and working on public roads.

Senator Boyhan highlighted this act, adding that a local authority can also in cases of immediate danger, take the necessary action required without giving notice to make a property safe.

“Landowners should walk their property and assess the level of infection and risk in all their Ash trees, those planted and those in the hedgerows,” Senator Boyhan said.

While the responsibility of ash dieback lies with landowners, the senator added that the government needs to provide support to these owners to deal with the current dangers.

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