Anger and upset over ESB clearance works

By Mary Dennehy

LOCAL residents have voiced anger and upset over ESB clearance works, which they claim destroyed an important habitat for local wildlife – including nesting birds.

Residents living in Elder Heath on the Kiltipper Road have expressed serious concern for local wildlife, after they claim ESB contractors “decimated” hedgerows and trees running along their mountain-side estate.

Elder Heath Meadow Trees 01 compressor

The hedge cut underneath the ESB powerlines

Residents have also expressed upset over the clearing of a wildlife corridor during breeding and nesting season.

One resident told The Echo: “Most of what they cut back was nowhere near big enough to pose an immediate risk to the power lines.

“By law hedge cutting should not be carried out from March to August when birds are breeding and nesting.

“The destruction has to be seen to be believed.

“These hedges were full of wildlife and now it’s just silence.”

It is an offence under the Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000 to ‘cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch’ between March 1 and August 31.  

However, bodies such as the ESB are exempt, under Section 40 (2) (c) of the Act if they are carrying out works for ‘reasons of public health or safety’.

“The contractor and the ESB can cite ‘emergency powers’ and they’re not held accountable”, the resident continued.

“All the talk of climate change, the age of extinction, report after report but on the ground nothing is actually happening.

“It would be great to bring about a change in practice.”

Another frustrated and upset resident who spoke with The Echo said that the area was teeming with all kinds of wildlife, including birds, foxes and deer – but since the clearance work on June 15, the area is still.

“What really disturbed me is that they squashed everything down, so anything in there had no chance to escape”, the resident said.

“All of the birds nesting in those hedges, I just can’t understand the timing, and it’s nothing to do with the lockdown.

“If they had to cut it back now, they could have just taken some off not the enormity that they removed… they’ve decimated the area.”

A complaint in relation to the works was lodged with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

When contacted by The Echo, a spokesperson said: “The matter is currently under investigation, the Department cannot comment publicly on ongoing investigations.”

The spokesperson did confirm that the activity was reported as having been carried out in close proximity to ESB Network power lines, which Section 40 (2) (c) of the Wildlife Act provides for.

When contacted by The Echo, ESB Networks confirmed that it recently carried out clearance works in the Tallaght area – and that it has ‘permission’ to cut in all seasons under the Wild Life Act 1976, which was amended in 2000.

An ESB spokesperson said: “ESB Networks can confirm that it recently carried out essential clearance works in the Tallaght area to safeguard the electricity infrastructure and maintain supply.

“ESB Networks have a continuous programme of timber clearance adjacent to and under high and low voltage overhead powerlines in order to fulfil its public safety obligations.

“ESB Networks contracts this work to a number of approved Timber Cutting Contractors, with the appropriate competence and qualifications, in accordance with ESB Networks Safety Standards and National Safety Legislation.

“Timber hazards must be removed from overhead power lines in accordance with ESB Networks timber hazard clearance policy.

“Minimum clearance must be maintained in order to ensure that our public safety requirements are met.”

The spokesperson added: “This work is urgent and required to maintain continuity of supply.

“This work is also being carried out for essential maintenance reasons. 

“ESB network have permission to cut in all seasons as per Section 40 of the Wild Life Act 1976.”

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