Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
Weather Events Response
499. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government his plans to amend the Roads Act 1993 in view of the review report on severe weather events recommendations by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20655/19]
500. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if the Government task force on emergency planning has completed consideration of the review report on severe weather events in 2017 and 2018; if a requirement has been made to ensure that appropriate protection and management of trees and hedgerows on both public and private roads will be put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20656/19]
503. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if he will address the issue of trees and public safety in view of the review report on severe weather events recommendations; if he will require all local authorities to appoint a qualified arborist or tree officer to provide professional advice to local authorities and private landowners to assist with the risk management of trees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20706/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 499, 500 and 503 together.
My Department is the Lead Government Department for coordinating the response to severe weather events, including those involving high winds. One of the most widespread and potentially dangerous consequence of high wind is the risk of trees breaking and/or falling, posing a danger to motorists and pedestrians in the vicinity. This was the case with ex-Hurricane Ophelia on 16 October 2017, where trees down were reported in many areas across the country, with especially high numbers of roads blocked in the south and south-east regions.
Tragically, the three fatalities which occurred during ex-Hurricane Ophelia, were associated with falling trees and breaking branches. The fatalities underlined the public safety risk of this event which informed the decision of the National Emergency Co-ordination Group to advise the public against undertaking any non-essential activities or travel on 16 October 2017.
In its role as Lead Government Department, my Department has prepared a review report on the severe weather events which affected Ireland between August 2017 and September 2018. The review report includes recommendations for a risk management approach to address the issue of trees and public safety. This issue cuts across a number of Departments and public bodies as well as landowners. Under the Roads Act 1993, local authorities have responsibility for trees in public areas while trees on private lands, including lands adjoining public roads, are the legal responsibility of the land owner.
While my Department does not have primary responsibility in this area, it has made recommendations on the issue of a risk management approach to trees which can impact on public safety.
Implementation of recommendations in the report that fall within the remit of my Department are in hand, and work on those within the remit of the Principal Response Agencies (An Garda Síochána, the Health Service Executive and local authorities) will continue under the aegis of the National Steering Group on Major Emergency Management.
Recommendations in the Report which are cross-cutting and which relate to national co-ordination arrangements will be considered and taken forward through the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning.