DEVON County Council has issued a reminder to landowners, farmers and residents to cut roadside hedges, trees and shrubs in order to prevent overgrown vegetation creating a road safety hazard. Under the Highways Act 1980, landowners can be prosecuted if

DEVON County Council has issued a reminder to landowners, farmers and residents to cut roadside hedges, trees and shrubs in order to prevent overgrown vegetation creating a road safety hazard.

Under the Highways Act 1980, landowners can be prosecuted if their roadside hedges, shrubs or trees are found to be a contributory factor to an accident. This not only applies to vegetation at the sides of roads, but also adjacent to footpaths, cycleways and public rights of way.

Where road safety is not a problem, people are recommended to trim roadside hedges in January and February as this helps to ensure that berries and nuts are left for wildlife as long as possible.

No trimming should take place during the main bird breeding-season of March to July inclusive, unless unavoidable for safety reasons. Some bird nesting may also take place before and after this main period.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said: "Most landowners take their responsibilities very seriously, which has resulted in Devon's countryside and hedges being well maintained and looking attractive. We occasionally receive complaints from people who wrongly assume responsibility for roadside hedge cutting lies with the County Council. We need the co-operation of all landowners, occupiers, farmers and residents to undertake maintenance of their hedges, trees and shrubs, including the removal of all parings, in a safe and sympathetic way and at the most appropriate time."

Devon County Council Ecologist Sarah Jennings added: "Although hedge cutting for safety purposes, particularly at junctions and the inside of bends, should be carried out whenever necessary, cutting during the winter months is generally the best time for the wildlife in rural hedgerows. Where hedges are set back from the edge of the road and safety considerations allow, owners could think about cutting the sides and tops on a two or three year cycle."

The county council has produced a free leaflet giving advice on the maintenance of roadside hedges and trees. Copies can be obtained from the County Council's Website at: www.devon.gov.uk/index/transportroads/roads/road_maintenance

call 0845 1551004 or email hwaymain@devon.gov.uk.