Friday, 15 December 2017

Residents face being billed for overhanging hedgerows

VILLAGERS who don’t cut their hedges could be billed more than £3,000 if the job has to be done for

VILLAGERS who don’t cut their hedges could be billed more than £3,000 if the job has to be done for them.

Peppard Parish Council has received a number of complaints about overgrown bushes in the village and has written to homeowners asking them to trim them.

If the work is not done, Oxfordshire County Council’s highways staff will cut the hedges and charge each resident for the work, including the cost of road management and legal fees.

Warren Fisher, who has lived in Colliers Lane for 10 years, said he received a “heavy-handed” letter from the parish council warning him about the state of the hedges in the street.

Speaking during the open forum at a Peppard Parish Council meeting, he said: “I certainly try to keep my hedges under control.”

Mr Fisher pointed out that Natural England recommends a hedge is not trimmed between March 1 and July 31 because that is the main nesting season for birds. However, an exemption applies if the hedge overhangs a public highway. Mr Fisher said: “We have to give some consideration to the balance between natural habitats and the need for motorists to get from A to B quite quickly.”

He said the problem was worse on some other roads, adding: “If we’re going to look at road safety then we have to make a full risk assessment of the roads in our district.

“Colliers Lane is not a safe road. There are areas which have remained unrepaired for a long time.

“I ask that we give some consideration to the future of Colliers Lane, which is deemed to be a major road.”

Council chairman David Hammond said Chris Softley, a county council highways officer, had told him that a resident in Gallowstree Road was refusing to take responsibility for maintaining his hedge.

He said: “He will get a final warning with an estimate of how much it will cost to deal with the hedge.

“The county council’s contractors will come in and take it back to the recommended level. Their objective is not to make the hedge look pretty at the end of it.

“The order could exceed £3,000.”

Cllr Hammond said the rules stated that trees over a public highway should have a clearance of 5.2m to allow unimpeded access for vehicles of a normal height and trees over a public footway should be no more than 2.5m.

He added: “Any trees that spread out into the carriageway are inevitably the responsibility of the landowner.”

Cllr Hammond said the parish council had received another complaint about why it had sent warning letters to householders.

The complaint had an “aggressive” tone and the writer assumed there had been complaints about the hedges from “daredevil” drivers using the road.

“People living in Colliers Lane are concerned about the safety of the hedges,” said Cllr Hammond.

“After listening to Chris Softley, it’s very clear that hedges overgrowing the road will, as far as the county council is concerned, be treated the same in terms of interpreting the rules.”

Cllr Hammond said it was an offence to cut a hedge to the detriment of wildlife but that didn’t mean absolutely that if it was overgrown and impacting on public safety that it couldn’t be cut back during the nesting season.

“Laws which protect public safety take precedent over laws which protect wildlife,” he said.

He had visited the street that day and noticed there was a hedge that was up to 3ft beyond the edge of the footpath, forcing drivers further into the road.

Cllr Hammond said: “I totally accept that anyone driving down Colliers Lane should be going slowly.

“The only place to pass is partly in people’s driveways because the width is narrow in parts.

“My wife has nearly been driven off the road down there, where a lot of people drive irresponsibly.”

He said the parish council would support the county council’s enforcement action but would write a “friendlier” initial letter to residents.

lThe next meeting of Peppard Parish Council has been changed to next Wednesday (October 9) at 7.30pm. It will take place at the sports pavilion in Stoke Row Road.

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