Cllr John Paul Feeley (FF).

Increase in ‘tree free zone’ sought to prevent power outages

The council is to write to the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, asking him to amend regulations to increase the ‘tree free zone’ adjacent to electrical supply lines to at least 30 metres each side to minimise the number of outages for households.

The motion was tabled amid calls putting pressure on the minister to instigate a programme of inspection to ensure that commercial forests are planted and maintained in accordance with existing regulations also.

It follows a meeting between members elected to the Cavan-Belturbet Municipal District area with ESB Networks and Coillte officials to try to address concerns where trees falling are leaving some homes, in the west of the county in particular, without power for days at a time.

Fianna Fáil’s John Paul Feeley, who shared the motion with fellow party colleague Sean Smith, commended the input of ESB Networks in trying to find a solution. He was however less than enthusiastic about the input from Coillte when relaying the event back at the December monthly meeting of the council proper.

The Cathaoirleach described the “contribution” from those representing Coillte at the meeting as “regrettable”.

“They had nothing constructive to say,” he added, setting out the parameters of his extended ‘tree free zone’ plan.

There are different dimensions of Exclusion Zone limits for different voltages, but the general setback area from roads is between 10 metres to 20 metres.

Cllr Feeley said that branches though “grow out” and this was causing “huge problems” for electricity supply infrastructure.

As a result he was seeking the exclusion zone expanded out to 30 metres, as well as a proper implementation of the regulations in place to comply with the basic principles of “being a good neighbour”.

Fine Gael’s Peter McVitty said that it was an “ongoing” issue that affected many families living in the west of the county.

When power infrastructure is damaged it can leave “areas out for weeks at a time”.

There was then a “problem” with bringing the necessary equipment to sites to repair damage. In some cases, with Corlough referenced, locals had gone out themselves and cut back trees that had fallen across roads.

The motion was also supported by Brendan Fay (Ind).