Trees face the chop in order to keep Cobh open

Landowners will face legal action if they fail to chop down hundreds of potentially dangerous trees along one of the most scenic roads in Cork.

A tree after being cut after having fallen near Belvelly Bridge on the road to Cobh during Storm Ophelia. Picture: Denis Minihane

County council officials have sent warning notices to landowners along the Fota Rd, the sole route which connects the 11,000 inhabitants of Cobh and Great Island with mainland Cork.

Following Storm Ophelia, residents in the area were cut off for several hours after large trees fell on the road while train services and the cross-river ferry had been cancelled for safety reasons.

During the storm, an ambulance crew had to lift a patient over fallen trees to get him to hospital.

This week, an accident was reportedly caused when a large limb of a tree came crashing down on the road.

Cllr Cathal Rasmussen (Lab) said a concerned motorist got out of his vehicle to remove it and an accident ensued with another car which resulted in injuries.

“You are now taking your life in your hands travelling that road,” said Mr Rasmussen, suggested to council engineers that they have to threaten landowners with court action if they do not remove hundreds of massive roadside trees.

Engineers said they had already sent warning notices to landowners and, if ignored, the local authority would ratchet up the pressure.

Officials revealed that after Ophelia, they issued 120 letters of warning to landowners in the municipal district and, to date, the response had been reasonably good.

“It always takes another incident to bring this to the fore,” said Cllr Sinead Sheppard (FG).

She pointed out weakened trees had fallen within land adjacent to the road in recent weeks and parts of a large retaining wall, on the side of the road, was also damaged, which could present a further danger to motorists.

Ms Shepperd said the lives of people take precedent over trees and they have to be removed to ensure they do not present a continuing threat to passing motorists.

Council engineers said they regularly conduct visual inspections on roadside walls and advise property owners to repair them.

Under the Roads Acts, officials said they have the legal powers to force landowners to act on dangerous roadside trees and walls which could present a danger to public safety.

Cllr Kieran McCarthy (SF) said if landowners do not think the council is serious in its threat, they would ignore the warning letters.

“The reality is that this is the only artery in and out of Cobh and the trees have to be removed. There may also be preservation orders on some of those walls,” he said.

Cllr Anthony Barry (FG) said: “It will probably come to a stage where insurers will not cover landowners if there’s a serious incident. The responsibility of landowners is going to become a bigger issue.”


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