Natural England - Hedgerow regulations

Hedgerow regulations

“Important” hedgerows (as defined in the Regulations) are protected from removal (up-rooting or otherwise destroying) by the Hedgerows Regulations 1997. Various criteria specified in the Regulations are used to identify “important” hedgerows for wildlife, landscape or historical reasons.

Legal and regulation issues

Under the Hedgerows Regulations 1997  it is against the law to remove or destroy certain hedgerows without permission from the local planning authority. The local planning authority are also the enforcement body for offences created by the Regulations.

Local planning authority permission is normally required before removing hedges that are at least 20 metres (66 feet) in length, more than 30 years old and contain certain plant species. The authority will assess the importance of the hedgerow using criteria set out in the regulations.

Defra is the policy body for the Hedgerow Regulations in England.  Natural England has no formal role with regard to the Hedgerow Regulations.

A summary of the Hedgerow Regulations is contained in the Defra leaflet 'Hedgerow Regulations: Your Question Answered'. More detailed guidance is contained in 'The Hedgerows Regulations 1997: A Guide to the Law and Good Practice'. You can request a copy of these, free of charge, by emailing farmland.conservation@defra.gsi.gov.uk.

If you are receiving the funding under the Single Payment Schemeexternal link, you need to keep hedgerows in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC).external link

Particular attention should be paid to GAEC 14 and GAEC 15 in the Cross Compliance Handbook for England  (RPA)external link.

More information on Hedges and the law: (183kb)pdf document produced by Natural England. 

Good practice for hedgerow management

The wildlife and landscape value of hedgerows can be maintained and enhanced by good management.

  • You should avoid trimming hedgerows between 1 March and 31 July (as required by the guidelines) – the main nesting season for birds.  Exemptions apply if the hedgerow overhangs a public highway or public footpath, or if it obstructs the view of drivers.
  • It is best to leave trimming until the end of winter, but where it is impossible to get on the field at this time, trimming can be brought forward to early winter.
  • Ground cover at the hedge base should be retained over winter for ground-nesting birds.
  • It should also be noted that over-management – or trimming a hedge too severely – can have a detrimental effect on conservation. In general, taller, bushier hedgerows provide more wildlife potential than smaller, thinner hedges.
  • If conditions are such that you need to trim hedges when berries are still present, only the hedge sides should be trimmed, as this will leave some fruit.
  • You should pay particular attention to the need to avoid spray and fertiliser drift into hedges, hedge verges and hedge bottoms.
  • Livestock should be fenced away from hedgerows, and a strip of uncultivated or ungrazed land maintained between the hedge and the adjacent crop.

Publications

  • Hedgelink leafletexternal link incorporating the following documents:
  • Hedge cutting: answers to 18 common questions
  • Hedgerow trees: answers to 18 common questions
  • Hedgerow planting: answers to 18 common questions

Links

Hedgelinkexternal link is the partnership that brings everyone interested in hedgerows together, to share knowledge and ideas, to encourage and inspire, and to work with farmers and other land managers to conserve and enhance our hedgerow heritage.

News

CPRE launch new report  - England's hedgerows: don't cut them out! Making the case for better hedgerow protectionexternal link