People who own or are responsible for a hedge or tree by the roadside should check now in case it is overhanging the road and causing a problem, as they could end up with a hefty bill.

Cornwall Council is reminding people that maintenance is necessary to ensure that Cornwall’s highways are safe for motorists, cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians; this includes along pavements and on public rights of way.

A spokesman said: "Heavy cutting should be avoided where possible to keep the hedge or tree looking as good as possible and to protect its value for wildlife. Cutting should though, take into account the likely growth that can be expected in the following year.

"There are over 7,000km (4,500 miles) of road in Cornwall, essential for the movement of goods, services, tourism and general access, many bordered by hedges, bushes and trees. Most trees near the highway are located on boundary hedges or on private land, both of which are the responsibility of the landowner or occupier.

"When reports are received of trees hitting vehicles, obstructing footways or restricting visibility, the local Safety Inspector will visit the site, locate the owner and request that appropriate trimming takes place to overcome the problem. Cornwall Council has the power to serve notice on the landowner if the necessary work is not carried out."

Overgrown hedges growing over pavements can force pedestrians out into the road, putting them at risk from passing traffic. Shading by hedges can encourage the growth of algae and mosses which can make a surface slippery.

Claims could also be made against a landowner if projecting growth damages vehicles. If, as an example, a delivery vehicle serving a farm loses a wing mirror this could result in a repair cost of £500 and a side sheet, if torn, can cost in the region of £2,000 to replace.

The Cornwall Council leaflet ‘Cornish Roadside Hedge Management’ offers advice to landowners on how and when to cut hedges to ensure road safety is not compromised and to encourage biodiversity. The leaflet, produced with input from ‘The Cornish Hedge Group’ is available online