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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/2024/04/16/laying-the-hedgerow-regulations/

Laying the hedgerow regulations

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Farming and Countryside Programme
Blackthorn hedgerow in the Spring Sunshine
Credit: 35mmMan

In my last post on hedgerows, I outlined our approach to the future of hedgerow protections and summarised the responses to the consultation held last year. 

It was clear from responses that there was overwhelming agreement that hedgerows are valuable assets for wildlife and the environment. Those who responded clearly supported hedgerow protections and we confirmed our commitment to bring in the new regulation.  

We are pleased to tell you that legislation to protect hedgerows has today been laid in both Houses of Parliament. 

If approved by Parliament, the Management of Hedgerows (England) Regulations 2024 will put baseline hedgerow management practices into law, providing a consistent approach across all people operating on agricultural land. 

This includes: 

  • a 2-metre buffer strip, measured from the centre of a hedgerow, where a green cover must be established and maintained. Also, no cultivation or the application of pesticides or fertilisers should take place within this buffer strip. 
  • a hedgerow cutting ban from 1 March to 31 August (inclusive).  

These practices will be subject to exemptions and derogations as set out in the legislation. They broadly mirror the previous approach under cross compliance. This will make it straightforward for farmers and others who are familiar with the requirements.   

If agreed by Parliament, the regulations will come into force immediately.  

The exception is the buffer strip requirements which will only apply immediately where there is a buffer strip in place already. On land where there is currently no buffer strip, but which is not used for crop production, the rules will apply from 1 July 2024.

Where land is currently in use for crop production, the rules will apply from the end of the first harvest that takes place after the legislation comes into force. This allows time to establish a buffer strip where it is necessary to do that.  

Guidance on the new rules will be available on GOV.UK and we will be speaking with stakeholders about them. I'll update this post with the guidance as soon as it's available.

We understand that while most farmers and others, will be familiar with the requirements, some will not be. We will work hard to give people the support they need.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will be the regulator and will take an advice-led approach. They will consult on their proposed approach to enforcing the new regulations, subject to Parliament’s approval. 

These new regulations underline the government’s commitment to protecting our hedgerows which are valuable assets for our environment and wildlife.  

This includes for our farmland bird species who, as confirmed by the British Trust for Ornithology, are using hedgerows to nest from 1 March to 31 August.  

We know our farmers and land managers are committed to protecting our hedgerows, the regulations will provide a consistent approach. They will be supplemented by the actions being undertaken by many through environmental land management schemes.   

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14 comments

  1. Comment by Mike Furness posted on

    and Urban hedges ? Town and Village hedges are they covered by the legislation ?

    a 2-metre buffer strip, measured from the centre of a hedgerow, where a green cover must be established and maintained. Also, no cultivation or the application of pesticides or fertilisers should take place within this buffer strip.
    a hedgerow cutting ban from 1 March to 31 August (inclusive).

    Reply
    • Replies to Mike Furness>

      Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

      Hi Mike,

      The legislation we talk about in this post covers hedges on agricultural land.

      Best wishes,
      Sarah

      Reply
  2. Comment by John Metcalfe posted on

    Hopefully there will be action against those that contravene the legislation. I see many areas where cropping is damaging hedgerows even where cross compliance should have maintained the 2m buffer anyway.
    Its a step in the right direction.

    Reply
  3. Comment by Peter Collingwood posted on

    We were told that this legislation would mirror the requirements for 'cross compliance'; however, there is no emption for the cutting of orchard windbreaks? Also there is no definition of what a hedgerow is? Therefore, are orchard windbreaks covered by this legislation or not? Any information/answers to these 3 questions would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Replies to Peter Collingwood>

      Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

      Hi Peter,

      If the legislation is approved, guidance will be published on GOV.UK. The guidance will define hedgerows and can be used to assess whether your orchard windbreak falls within scope of the regulation.

      Best wishes,
      Sarah

      Reply
  4. Comment by Chris Bielby posted on

    This is good news if it ever gets passed. Also need to prevent hedge trimming until early in New Year to allow wildlife to feed on berries in the autumn, essential for migrants like winter thrushes.

    Reply
  5. Comment by AB posted on

    There needs to be an extension to the legislation for farmers that don't/won't fence against their own stock which damage other land owners hedging eg eating it, tramping through it, breaking it down. I gather from RPA there is no authority to deal with this at present.

    Reply
  6. Comment by William Rollinson posted on

    I agree with Chris Bielby as regards feed for migrants. Also is the buffer strip 2 metres each side of the centre of the hedge or 1 metre each side?

    Reply
    • Replies to William Rollinson>

      Comment by Sarah Stewart posted on

      Hello,

      The draft regulations require 2 metres from the centre of the hedge, not 1m each side.

      Best wishes,
      Sarah

      Reply
  7. Comment by peter posted on

    well done in getting the legislation so far and lets hope that it is implemented quickly - unfortunately the delay in implementing the legislation has openned up opportunity for the taking out of hedges for some unscrupulous farmers and we are seeing evidence of this sadly in our area - we understand the advice led approach will work for most (responsible) farmers but we also expect the RPA will need to take prompt enforcement action against transgressors so those responsbile farmers are not penalised and we have a level playing field (trust this will be covered in the guidance)

    Reply
  8. Comment by Mrs p armstrong posted on

    Roadside hedges have been exempt from this up til now. Not sure about going forwards

    Reply
  9. Comment by Sheila Jaswon posted on

    This is positive going forward. Planting new hedges and managing and restoring others for wildlife and carbon capture is crucial as is the need for hedgerow trees which also need protection as well as new establishment.
    It is painful to witness the all too frequent scrubbing out of hedgerows, neglect as well as over management of this much needed ‘corridor’ habitat.

    Reply

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