The existing Hedgerow regulations came in to force on 1 June 1997 and were created with the intent of protecting important countryside hedges from damage and destruction. The regulations are extremely complicated so we have put together a few often-asked questions that help to explain different aspects of the regulations and how they might affect you, your property and the risk of legal action.
1. Do I need permission to remove part or all of my hedgerow?
YES – when your hedgerow is on land used for breeding or keeping horses, ponies or donkeys, common land, land used for forestry, agricultural land (including alongside) or a Local Nature reserve or Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI)
NO – if it is shorter than 20 metres (unless it constitutes a section of a larger hedgerow) or if it is in, or borders, your garden.
2. Are there any other instances where I could remove a hedgerow without permission?
- To comply with a statutory plant or forestry health order, a statutory notice for preventing interference with electric lines and apparatus or in connection with statutory drainage or flood defence work.
- To implement a planning permission (but in the case of permitted development rights, most hedgerow removal will require prior permission).
- To make a new opening in substitution for an existing one that gives access to land. For example, a gate. However, the old one must be filled in within 8 months.
- In a case of national defence.
- To gain temporary access in an emergency.
3. Is it just ‘grubbing’ up the hedgerow that applies?
No. The regulations incorporate all actions that result in the hedgerow being destroyed. Normal management, eg. Coppicing, is perfectly acceptable however.
4. Who can seek permission for removal and how is it done?
Only the landowner, agricultural tenant, farm business tenant or certain utilities, such as electricity companies, can seek permission.
You send the local planning authority a ‘hedgerow removal notice’ for which there is no charge. The authority will be your local or district council, the county council if in Wales or the relevant National Park Authority.
They will visit the site to assess whether the hedge is ‘important’.
5. What does the hedgerow being ‘important’, or not, mean for me?
If it IS important, the authorities will consider the circumstances and judge whether they justify removal. If they do not, then a ‘hedgerow retention notice’ will be issued and permission will be denied.
If it is NOT important, the authority cannot deny you permission to remove the hedgerow. However, if other authorities have notification requirements etc. then this does NOT override them.
6. What if I don’t hear from the authority?
If 6 weeks pass after the authority receives your removal notice with no response, then you may remove the hedgerow.
7. Can a Hedgerow Retention Notice be challenged?
Yes. You can write to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (currently The Right Honourable Caroline Spelman MP) within 28 days of receiving the authority’s decision.
8. How long does a Hedgerow Retention Notice last?
They are permanent. However, if circumstances change, you may be able to submit another removal notice.
9. What happens if I remove the hedgerow without permission?
It is against the law to do so. The authority might demand you replant the hedgerow and they have legal powers to ensure this happens. If you are found guilty by a Magistrates’ Court, the fine is up to £5000. If tried in the Crown Court, the fine is unlimited.
10. Are there grants and advice available for me to restore or maintain the hedgerow?
The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers may be able to help with practical restoration. Free initial advice is available from ADAS (Agricultural Development Advisory Service) and FWAG (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group), independent advisors on environmental issues.
3rd June 2011