Bid for concessionary rate on high hedges defeated.

Castlereagh Alliance Councillor Carole Howard has expressed her disappointment after a proposal to introduce a concessionary rate for the elderly and those on low incomes who want to make complaints about high hedges in the borough was defeated by councillors from the DUP, UUP and SDLP, who only agreed to review the matter of a concessionary rate in six months’ time.

The council has instead introduced a fee of £360 for all those who wish to make complaints about high hedges, regardless of their ability to pay.

Cllr Howard said she believed there should be reduced fees for the elderly and those on low incomes, to ensure those with genuine concerns about high hedges could have their worries investigated.

“We recognise the council will face costs in dealing with these complaints which need to be recovered. As it stands, the system ensures where the complaint if valid, the upfront fee is refunded and the costs recovered from the hedge owner.

“Nevertheless, the scale of fees to be paid by the person making the complaint to allow the matter to be investigated in the first place may well prevent many people from making a genuine complaint.

“Alliance campaigned for the introduction of this legislation to tackle the blight of high hedges but the level of the fee required to make a complaint is so high that we are concerned that many people will not be able to make use of it.”

Cllr Howard added that she could not understand why other councillors had rejected the Alliance motion.

“At the Technical Services meeting this month, we put forward the idea of introducing lower rates for two groups – the elderly and those on benefits – but unfortunately the unionists and SDLP opposed our proposal. We also suggested people in these groups could be given the option to pay in instalments but this was also turned down.

“Given Castlereagh has a high proportion of elderly people and we have a good record of supporting them, we are disappointed at this response but will continue to argue for change when the matter is reviewed in six months.”


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