Hedge Cutting – A Comprehensive Guide to Statutory Duties and Advice

A hedge on the roadside is normally the property of the adjacent landowner / occupier who is responsible under the Highways Act 1980 for: 

Statutory Duties

  • Preventing the hedge from overhanging the highway, which may cause an obstruction and restrict visibility. 
  • Preventing hedge growth from obscuring street lights and road signs. 
  • Ensuring that clippings do not cause a hazard on the highway, e.g. by sweeping and clearing after the cutting work has been completed. 
  • Meeting the obligations of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, i.e. nesting birds and other species such as bats and dormice are given legal protection. 

Advisory Notes:

Where a hedge is considered to be an interference to the safe use of the highway, and the landowner has not taken the appropriate action, a formal notice may be served by the County Council on the owner / occupier requiring the removal of the offending growth.  

Carry out the work during times of light traffic, daylight and good visibility using easily seen, good condition machinery that does not throw debris in to the path of the traffic. 

Where road safety is not put at risk, we recommend that you undertake trimming preferably in January and February to ensure that nuts and berries are available for birds and other wildlife.  Trimming should not take place during the main bird breeding season, March to July inclusive, unless unavoidable for road safety reasons. 

Where hedges are set back from the edge of the road and safety considerations allow, hedges should be cut on a two or three year (or longer) cycle.  If the side of the hedge bordering the road has to be cut every year for visibility, drainage or other reasons, you should consider only cutting the top of the hedge once every two or three years. 

The Natural England Environmental Stewardship Scheme provides opportunities for farmers to be rewarded for sensitive hedgerow management.  

On the major routes the Council will cut hedges on the inside of bends and at junctions for visibility purposes.  

Hedgerow Removal: 

The Hedgerow Regulations 1997 state it is an offence to remove a hedgerow or section of hedgerow without notifying the local planning authority.  For more details contact the City, Borough or District Council or National Park Authority in your area.  

Roadside Trees 

Trees help to improve the environment and provide an excellent habitat for wildlife. However, landowners have an obligation under the Highways Act 1980 to ensure that the trees on their land do not endanger highway users. 

Statutory Duties

Carry out regular checks of tress on your land that might fall onto the highway and arrange for the completion of any necessary tree surgery works. 

Ensure that trees overhanging the highway do not cause an obstruction to the normal passage of vehicles. 

Advisory Notes

  • Plant trees in hedgerows where they won’t be a danger to road users. 
  • Remember that you might need permission to lop a tree covered by a tree preservation order. 
  • For further advice on hedge and tree cutting please call 0845 155 1004 and ask for a copy of “The Roadside Hedge and Tree Management” leaflet. 

Highway Verges 

It is an offence to deposit objects within the highway that could cause an obstruction or hazard. 

Statutory Duties

  • Do not leave farm materials on highway verges. 
  • Do not place stones on the verge to prevent inconsiderate parking. 

Advisory Notes

  • Do not drive on the verges as this may damage easements, ditches and grips.  Bringing mud and water onto the road causes a hazard and weakens the road edges.  Driving on verges also causes harm to wildlife. 
  • Park all machinery off highway verges and away from sight lines. 
  • Find out if any verges alongside your land are protected for their special wildlife value. 
  • The County Council has a comprehensive verges policy which sets out standards for highway work such as grass cutting, tree planting and weed killing.  

Ditches and Drains 

Ditches on land near the highway which take water from it, are the responsibility of the landowner.  The Council may undertake measures to drain the highway on to adjacent land.  In doing so, however, compensation may be payable to the landowner for any damage caused by such works. 

Advisory Notes:

  • Regularly clean the waterways on your land in areas where they act to drain the highway. 
  • Check headwalls and grilles regularly. 

Agricultural Vehicles 

Slow farm machines on busy roads can very quickly cause long traffic queues.  This can result in accidents as drivers become frustrated and then take risks.  

Wide vehicles sometimes over-ride verges in narrow lanes, causing the spread of mud and serious and expensive damage to the road and to drains or ditches.  

Advisory Notes

  • Vehicle widths must comply with the latest regulations. 
  • Vehicles must not be too wide or unsuitable for the type of road being used. 
  • Consideration should be given to other road users by pulling into lay-bys and similar safe spaces when possible, so that following traffic can pass safely. 
  • Travel on main “A” class roads should be avoided at peak times eg. between 0730 hours to 0900 hours and 1700 hours to 1830 hours. 
  • Take care not to overload trailers or muck spreaders, or carry loads that overhang a long way and obstruct other traffic. 

Liability 

The Council can and does take action against landowners / occupiers who create a danger either on or adjacent to the road.  If a landowner / occupier fails to take adequate precautions or fails to comply with highway legislation, then in the event of an accident they may find themselves liable for a substantial compensation claim which may not be covered by their insurance policy. 

A chartered surveyor will be able to assist if you are unsure about your boundaries, find your local surveyor at: 

www.propertysurveying.co.uk

SRJ / BT                                                                                                                                02.05.14

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