RSA and local authorities remind landowners to cut hedgerows to prevent road safety hazards

26 January 2023. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) and the County and City Management Association (CCMA) are calling on land-owners to cut their hedgerows before the March 1 deadline, to ensure they are not causing a potentially serious road safety hazard.

Overgrown hedgerows and roadside verges can result in road fatalities and serious injury collisions. Properly maintained hedges also protect vulnerable road users who are not forced onto the road by overgrown hedges. It additionally affords motorists a clear view of what is in front of them or around the a bend, especially on local rural roads in the case of sightlines at junctions or obstructions to road signs.

In accordance with the Wildlife Act, it is an offence to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated or growing in any hedge or ditch, between 1st March and 31st August. There are some exceptions to this including if there are grounds to act for road safety reasons. Local authorities can and do either take direct action themselves or serve a notice on the landowner to do something in such instances.

Mr. Sam Waide, Chief Executive, RSA, said: “Landowners across the country need to be aware of the impact that overgrown hedgerows can have on other road users. They can cause a road safety hazard that could potentially result in loss of life or serious injury to another member of your community.  Road safety is a shared responsibility, and it is important that landowners remain alert and take accountability for maintaining hedgerows. We can make our roads a safer place if we all play our role and take personal responsibility for what happens on the roads.”

On behalf of local authorities, John McLaughlin, Chair of the County and City Management Association Climate Action, Transport, Circular Economy, and Networks Committee said: “Local authorities have an obligation to ensure roadside verges are maintained and that local road safety issues should be prioritised, whilst also recognising the commitments under directives to preserve hedgerows and promote biodiversity. Equally, landowners and anyone living along the roadside has a responsibility to check that hedges or trees on their property are not causing a road safety hazard. If they are, the landowners should take the necessary steps needed to ensure road safety. We are also calling on members of the public to report road safety issues caused by overgrowth to their local authority, which can then contact the landowner.”