The Midlands has some beautiful rural areas that are filled with twisting lanes, lined with rich, healthy hedges that are full of life. These lanes were developed in a past age where vehicles were less frequent and smaller in size.
While we all look to protect hedgerows and justifiably assume that they cannot be cut all year-round, there are some exceptions that members should be familiar with.
Our starting assumption has a foundation which is two-fold; The first being that the hedge is protected by cross compliance requirements and that there are regulations in place to protect hedges.
Cross compliance (England 2023)
Most farmers will be aware of cross compliance requirements, and it is essential that you understand those specific to you.
Please see the below key dates that are relevant to managing hedgerows:
- From 1st March you must not cut or trim hedges or trees, but you can carry out hedge and tree coppicing and hedge laying from 1st March until 30th April. Fruit and nut trees in orchards, or trees acting as windbreaks in orchards, vineyards, hop yards or hop gardens are not included in the ban. (GAEC 7a and 7c).
- From 1st May you must not carry out hedge or tree coppicing or hedge laying. (GAEC7a and 7c).
- From 1st August, if you have been granted a derogation by the RPA, you may be able to cut or trim hedges to allow for you to sow oilseed rape or temporary grassland prior to 1st September. (GAEC*7a).
- From 1st September you can cut or trim hedges and trees (GAEC 7a and 7c).
For thoroughness, you can manage hedges outside of the highlighted windows and cross-compliance doesn’t relate to hedges within the curtilage of a residential property.
Additional statutory protection can be found in the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. This piece of legislation isn’t relating to management but is important if you wish to remove a hedgerow as you would need to get permission from your local authority.
The regulations protect hedgerows that grow in, or adjacent to, any land which forms part of the agricultural area of your holding and which has one of the following:
- a continuous length of at least 20 metres, or is part of any such length;
- a continuous length of less than 20 metres where it meets (at an intersection or junction) another hedge at each end.
There is existing extra protection for ‘important’ hedges which are defined as:
(a)has existed for 30 years or more; and
(b)satisfies at least one of a long list of criteria within Part II of Schedule 1, which includes the hedgerow having historic importance, containing or being home to protected species or incorporates an archaeological feature (the source legislation can be found here).
There do exist some exemptions (covering both cross compliance and protected hedgerows rules) when cutting back a hedge which is impeding a highway. It is advised that you contact your local authority, usually your County Council
If you are a member and have any questions please feel free to contact your local CLA office.
Please be aware that the information in this blog was up to date at the time of publishing. We do try to update historical blog information regularly. If you would like further information on a particular subject, please contact the office on 01785 337010