More than 250 environmentalists have signed a petition calling on Cork County Council not to excessively trim roadside verges so they can support more wildlife.
However, council engineers have said that, in some cases, they have no choice but to do this for road safety.
A lengthy debate on the topic was entered into at a meeting of the East Cork Municipal District Council when it was raised by Green Party councillor Liam Quaide.
He said future verge-cutting contracts awarded by the municipal district should “contain strict limits so that cutting does not exceed maintaining road sightlines.”
Mr Quaide also wanted an independent assessment of road visibility to be carried out to ensure that cutting is curtailed in order to protect biodiversity.
“The Covid-19 restrictions gave nature some reprieve over the past few months. Many of us had been delighting in the vibrancy and colour and lushness of our roadside verges as the brush-cutters took a break from their usual work,” he said.
“Allowing nature to come through protects our wildlife, gladdens our hearts and saves public money. It was therefore with disappointment that many of us observed some severe verge-cutting recently between Midleton and Youghal on the N25, and on the Midleton to Whitegate Road. Much of this went well beyond road visibility concerns."
Mr Quaide pointed out that a local environmental group named Climate Aware Midleton has collected nearly 250 names on a petition calling for a more surgical regime of verge-cutting that better protects the natural beauty of roadside verges and biodiversity.
While Independent councillor Noel Collins agreed with him, Sinn Féin councillor Danielle Twomey said safety has to come first.
Fine Gael councillor Michael Hegarty pointed out that more and more people are walking now, and they're complaining that ditches are not being maintained.
“Common sense has to prevail, but health and safety has to be a concern too,” he said.
“It's going to be hard to get a happy medium,” added County Mayor Mary Linehan-Foley.
Dave Clarke, senior executive engineer for the area, said that verges were only cut along the main roads for safety reasons, and the two in question had accounted for seven out of 10 road fatalities in the region in the last few years.