A meeting of Laois County Council has heard that the local authority had to plough almost €200k of its own funds into road works to facilitate preparations for this year’s Ploughing Championships, which were held in Carlow.
The local authority had to dig deep to carry out the road improvements as it had to draw down funds from next year’s budget to meet the cost of the works.
A request to the National Ploughing Association, which is headquartered in Ballylinan, for a contribution towards the works, which were carried out for their benefit was point blank refused.
The request from Laois County Council for a dig out towards the €184,000 was met with a deaf ear or the cold shoulder, whichever you prefer, from the National Ploughing Association. Councillors were not impressed.
“Philip contacted the NPA and they didn’t reply very well. What he got back wasn’t very nice,” revealed Cllr Ben Brennan, of the correspondence between the NPA and their Senior Executive Engineer, Mr Philip McVeigh.
The Council had to carry out the works on the 2.2km roadway as it was deemed part of the preferred route for this year’s Ploughing Championships which were staged in Carlow.
The section of road from Ardateggle to Rossmore (L3896) involved improvements which were required in advance of the Ploughing. They were carried out in two contracts, one for the repair of subsided locations and then surface dressing.
On the same route and for the same reasons the Council had to embark on hedge cutting, stone water cuts and embankment improvements along the full length of the road from Moore’s Cross to Rossmore in advance of the Championships.
“It’s like a runway now, you could land a plane on it,” observed Cllr Aisling Moran.
“Whether it’s the Ploughing or the Picnic we shouldn’t be landed with a bill for €200,000 to carry out works to their benefit,” maintained Cllr Paschal McEvoy.
“We can’t afford to be at the loss of that out of our next year’s budget,” agreed Cllr Ben Brennan.
“Well if there is one positive out of it,” said Cllr Padraig Fleming rather diplomatically, “the road from Rossmore to the Carlow border is sorted out now for the next 20 years.”
Penalise farmers who neglect hedges
Far from resolved though is the thorny issue of hedge cutting in the countryside. Cllr Fleming said that while the vast majority of landowners maintained their hedges and verges there were those who continued to blithely ignore such responsibilities. He wants the Council to take a more hard-line with those who simply don’t bother.
“Farmers do a good job generally but I know of cases where despite repeated letters the ditches are coming well out onto the road.
“They simply ignore the notices we send out and we’ll never win. It’s a danger to the public and to traffic and we’ll have to start taking a hard-line on it. I know of roads where notices have been sent out for the past seven years and nothing has been done, but if people know that they will be fined and prosecuted it’s a different story, we will have to change our approach.”
Cllr Tom Mulhall said that farmers had a dilemma as 90% of the growth occurred during the summer and they were prohibited from hedge cutting at this time. The grass can also be high on the margins and they are asking themselves, ‘will I get in bother with the environment.’
“You can mow the grass at anytime, there are no nests in the grass,” responded Cllr Aisling Moran.
Cllr Fleming noted that hedge cutting was not restricted in season if it was a matter of health and safety or an issue of visibility along the roadway or junctions.
200 year old oak tree cut down
In a related matter, Cllr Aisling Moran queried why the local authority had facilitated the chopping down of a perfectly healthy 200 year old oak tree on Joe’s Road in her locality.
She was told that the TII had ordered this as the tree was rotten. Cllr Moran disputed this and said that the tree was healthy and was 200 yards from the road. She asked that the tree surgeons report be provided for their next meeting.
“Anyway if we do have to cut down trees for safety reasons then we should recoup the cost in some way, through firewood and so on,” she maintained.