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Planning Issues

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 14 December 2021

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Questions (318)

Ivana Bacik

Question:

318. Deputy Ivana Bacik asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage if there are plans to amend planning laws to address the planting of non-native leylandii in urban areas. [61867/21]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Planning legislation places no specific restrictions on the species or height of trees or hedges, nor does it make any particular provision for remedy from any other nuisance which may be caused by trees in an urban residential area. However, a civil remedy is available through the Courts concerning branches or roots of neighbouring trees encroaching on a person’s property.

The possibility of providing a broader civil law remedy for parties affected by high trees and hedges on adjoining properties was raised previously with the Minister for Justice. In this regard, advice was sought on the possibility of legislative provision being made, whereby a person substantially deprived of the enjoyment of their property, such as the deprivation of light caused by high trees on a neighbouring property, could apply to the Courts for an order, and that the Courts could make an order as they see fit, for example, to cut the trees back to an appropriate height. Safety considerations relating to overhanging trees could also potentially be addressed in any such provisions.

In response, the Minister for Justice suggested that disputes of this nature between neighbours could perhaps be more appropriately dealt with through mediation, which is being increasingly used internationally as a tool for the resolution of civil disputes, rather than through the Courts. Legislation subsequently introduced by the Minister for Justice has been enacted as the Mediation Act 2017 (the Act).

The Act, which came into operation on 1 January 2018, contains provisions to underpin a comprehensive statutory framework to promote the resolution of disputes through mediation as an alternative to court proceedings which should ideally be only used as a last resort. In essence, the underlying objective of the Act is to promote mediation as a viable, effective and efficient alternative to court proceedings, thereby reducing legal costs, speeding up the resolution of disputes and reducing the stress and acrimony which often accompanies court proceedings, including those involving adjoining property owners.

In relation to dangerous trees, section 70 of the Roads Act 1993 - which is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Transport – provides that, where a tree, shrub, hedge or other vegetation is a hazard or potential hazard to persons using a public road or where it obstructs or interferes with the safe use of a public road or with the maintenance of a public road, a road authority may serve a notice in writing on the owner or occupier of the land on which such tree, shrub, hedge or other vegetation is situated, requiring the preservation, felling, cutting, lopping, trimming or removal of such tree, shrub, hedge or other vegetation within the period stated in the notice.

I also understand that under Section 58 of the Communications Regulation Act 2002 – which comes under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications - an electronic communications network operator or any person authorised by the operator may lop or cut any tree, shrub or hedge which obstructs or interferes with any physical infrastructure of the network operator.

With regard to tall and dangerous trees on local authority property, local authorities - as with all landowners - are responsible for the safety and maintenance of trees on their land.

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