Council wants €3k for files on tree-cutting policy

Cork City Council wants a large fee from the ‘Irish Examiner’ for the release of documents.

Cork City Council has said it has not been contacted by insurance companies following reports that local authorities have been offered lower premiums to cut down trees.

However, the local authority has requested almost €3,000 from this newspaper for the release of documentation on its tree-cutting policy.

Cork people have documented on social media examples of trees being removed from public spaces and have been critical of the practice.

Last week, The Phoenix magazine claimed the insurance industry “has been identified as the dark force behind the slaughtering of thousands of healthy trees across Ireland”.

“It transpires insurance companies have offered lower premiums to county councils, if they remove any tree that poses even a remote threat to passing humans,” the magazine reported.

This was put to Cork City Council, which denied the claim. “I refer to your query and can confirm that no contact has been made with Cork City Council by insurance companies, in relation to trees,” the spokesperson said.

The Irish Examiner had unsuccessfully attempted to get information on Cork City Council’s tree-cutting policy through the Freedom of Information Act. We submitted a request seeking all documents relating to the removal of trees from public spaces, streets, and roads over a two-year period.

Our request was submitted on February 28. However, having not received any response by April 12, we again contacted the council.

Cork City Council said the request had been received, but “not acted on”, and on April 18 sent an acknowledgement letter, stating it would make a decision by May 13.

The Irish Examiner appealed this on the grounds that the four-week time limit, since receipt of our request, had expired, and, as such, our request had been refused. On Wednesday, the council made its decision, and said it would take two staff 145 hours to search for, and retrieve, the information we requested.

At €20 an hour, the overall fee Cork City Council sought to answer our request came to €2,916, which City Hall said does not include any copying charges.

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