The purpose of the event
This event will be an opportunity for the Interim Environmental Protection Assessor for Wales to give an update on their first 12 months in post and for a panel of experts to discuss the existing legal framework for protecting hedgerows in Wales and how best to approach hedgerow management going forward.
The purpose of this session will be to seek expert views and evidence on hedgerow management in order to inform a short report for Welsh Ministers. The hedgerow panel will consist of:
- Jerry Langford, Public Affairs Manager, Coed Cadw - Woodland Trust;
- Geraint Davies, Farmer and Natural Resources Wales Board Member
- Arfon Williams, Head of Land and Sea Policy, RSPB Cymru; and
- Rhianne Jones, Lead Specialist Advisor EU Exit and Land Management, NRW.
We would also welcome written evidence on this issue. Please send such evidence to IEPAW@gov.wales
Introduction to the Interim Environmental Protection Assessor for Wales
Dr Nerys Llewelyn Jones was appointed as the (IEPAW) in March 2021 to consider concerns raised by the public about the functioning of environmental law in Wales. This is an interim process that will be in place until a permanent body is established in Wales to oversee compliance with environmental law.
The focus of the IEPAW is on the functioning of environmental law, not on breaches of that law. Its aim is to:
- provide oversight of the functioning of environmental law in Wales;
- consider systemic issues relating to the working or functioning of environmental law in Wales; and
- identify where action can be taken to improve the functioning of environmental law in order to improve environmental outcomes.
The role of the IEPAW does not cover:
- breaches in environmental law;
- areas of non-compliance of environmental law; and
- issues raised that are covered by another complaints mechanism or process.
Submissions received on the protection of hedgerows
In its role monitoring the functioning of environmental law in Wales, the IEPAW has received a number of submissions raising concerns about the protection of hedgerows, and this was identified as a key theme in its recent Annual Report.
Hedgerows play an important role in the conservation of biodiversity, acting as corridors for wildlife and connecting fragmented habitats. As such, good hedgerow management plays an important role in the conservation of wildlife in urban and rural landscapes.
In Wales, there are an estimated 106,000 km of hedgerows, although a significant proportion of these are considered to be in an unfavourable condition.
The legal framework
The main piece of legislation for the protection of hedgerows in Wales is the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. These Regulations make provision for the protection of important hedgerows in England and Wales.
Before removing any hedgerow to which the Regulations apply, the landowner must notify the local planning authority, which may serve a hedgerow retention notice if the hedgerow is deemed to be important according to criteria set out in the legislation.
The Hedgerow Regulations only apply to countryside hedgerows, so there are no regulations on hedgerows in parks or on privately owned land that is not part of a dwelling (e.g. businesses).
The Regulations are enforced by local authorities, although Natural Resources Wales is responsible for issuing felling licences for the removal of trees within hedgerows.
The concerns raised in submissions received include:
- whether the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 were meeting their stated aim to protect hedgerows effectively;
- whether these Regulations were sufficiently well understood or properly enforced;
- whether the law should be applied more broadly to cover parks and gardens as well as farmland;
- whether grant funding was encouraging the removal of overgrown hedges; and
- the impact of the use of bird-deterrent netting on hedgerows.
The above issues will form the basis of our discussion at the panel stakeholder event on 21st July 2022 at 1.30pm in the Welsh Government Pavilion at the Royal Welsh Showground Builth Wells.