In 1997 new regulations came into force to protect important hedgerows, in particular hedgerows which are more than 20 metres long or which meet another hedgerow at either end. It should be noted that garden hedges are not affected.
Managed hedgerows are valuable for wildlife supporting a rich diversity of insects, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibian. In many lowland areas, hedges are the most significant wildlife habitat remaining. The health of hedgerows is crucial for the survival of many common as well as more rare species.
Native hedge plants such as blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel, dogwood and field maple will support many more species than non-native plants such as garden privet, leylandii and sycamore. In general terms, the more kinds of tree and shrub a hedge contains, the more wildlife it can support due to different flowering and fruiting times. The most valuable hedges are those that combine a thick and bushy hedge with a sympathetically managed bank, ditch or grassy margin.
Under the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 (SI no 1160):
l It is against the law to remove most countryside hedgerows (excluding those forming garden boundaries) without permission.
l To get permission to remove a hedgerow, you must write to us.
l If we decide to prohibit removal of an "important" hedgerow, we must let you know within 6 weeks.
l If you remove a hedgerow without permission, whether it is important or not, you may face an unlimited fine. You may also have to replace the hedgerow.
You do need permission to remove a hedgerow if it is on:
Agricultural land l
Common land l
Forestry land l
Local Nature Reserve l
Site of Special Scientific interest You do not need permission under these regulations if:l
It is in or borders your garden.
You are removing it to get access:-
- either to replace an existing one, (which should be replanted),
- or where there is no other means of entry or only at a disproportionate cost l
To gain temporary entry to help in an emergency
To comply with statutory plant or forestry health order
To comply with a statutory notice for preventing interference with electric linesl
In connection with statutory drainage or flood defence work
to implement a planning permission (except in the case of permitted development rights) BUT
you must check that there are no covenants, planning permissions or conditions requiring the hedges to be retained.
Removal of a hedgerow means grubbing it up and other actions that result in the hedgerow being destroyed. Coppicing, laying and the removal of dead or diseased shrubs or trees are treated as normal management.