New regulations announced for hedgerows in England

How will the latest Defra announcement on hedgerows impact landowners in England? CLA Environment Policy Adviser Bethany Turner explains more in her blog

This week, Defra announced forthcoming new regulations for hedgerows on agricultural land in England, which essentially reinstate the requirements of the old Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) cross-compliance rules for hedgerows into domestic law. These regulations will come in as soon as parliamentary time allows and will be enforced by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

The new regulations will include the requirement to maintain a two-metre buffer strip from the centre of the hedgerow, on which there can be no cultivation or application of pesticides and fertilisers while following the hedge cutting ban between 1 March and 31 August to protect nesting birds.

Defra consultation

Last summer, Defra consulted on how hedgerow protection should be regulated following the end of the cross-compliance requirements on 31 December 2023, this followed the delinking of the BPS. The consultation proposed continuing the previous protections by introducing them into domestic legislation.

The consultation received 8,841 responses, highlighting the level of interest in hedgerow protections. Around 25% of the responses were based on campaigns from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Wild Justice, which encouraged respondents to highlight the importance of hedgerows for delivering the UK Government’s plan for environmental improvement.

Both farmers and non-farmers were supportive of continuing the cross-compliance requirements, according to Defra analysis. The CLA response was supportive of retaining the two-metre buffer strip and the no cutting period, and of the need for exemptions for fields under two hectares and for hedgerows under five years old.

What do the new regulations mean for farmers and land managers?

For farmers and land managers who claimed BPS, there will be no change to the management requirements for hedgerows. However, the new regulations will apply to all hedgerows, including those on land where there was no BPS claim, unless they come under the exemptions. Note that all hedgerows are already covered by Hedgerow Regulations 1997 which requires permission from local authorities for removal – and this will continue.

Buffer strip:

The new regulations will require a two-metre buffer strip from the centre of the hedge with no fertiliser or pesticides allowed (other than spot application to control the spread of invasive and injurious weeds). There will continue to be exemptions for fields under two hectares and for hedges under five years old.

Cutting restrictions:

There will be restriction on cutting, with no cutting allowed between 1 March and 31 August, with various exemptions for trimming and cutting.

Notification of exemptions:

We were pleased to see the introduction of a streamlined process for notifying the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) when a hedge needs to be cut in August to sow oilseed rape or temporary grass, which was a key CLA recommendation. Rather than waiting for approval from the RPA, which was the system under cross-compliance, the regulations will instead require a written notification to the RPA and retention of evidence such as photographs.


The RPA will provide guidance on compliance and will be responsible for enforcement. The regulations will introduce both civil and criminal sanctions to allow the RPA to take action against land managers causing repeated or serious damage.

Although cross-compliance has now ended, Defra has reproduced their requirements and rules for farmers and land owners. This is to encourage land managers to manage hedgerows within the guidance until the regulations are live.

The Defra funded Farming Advice Service is available for advice on complying with regulations, as are your regional and national CLA advisers.

Key contact:

Bethany Turner headshot
Bethany Turner CLA Environment Policy Adviser, London