Frequently asked questions
What if I remove a hedgerow without giving the required Notice?
It is a criminal offence, unless one of the exceptions applies, to deliberately remove a hedgerow without permission. If you are found guilty by a Magistrates' Court, you face a fine of up to £5,000. If tried in the Crown Court, the fine is unlimited.
Do I have to replace a hedgerow if I remove it without permission?
We could direct you to plant another hedgerow and have legal powers to ensure this happens. The replacement hedgerow is automatically 'important' for 30 years after it has been planted.
Does removing a hedgerow just mean grubbing it up?
No. Removal also includes other actions that result in the hedgerow being destroyed, but coppicing, laying and removal of dead or diseased shrubs or trees are treated as normal management.
Who can give Notice of Intention to remove a hedgerow?
Only the landowner, agricultural tenant, farm business tenant or certain utilities, such as gas companies.
How do I give Notice of my intention to remove a hedgerow?
You have to send us a hedgerow removal notice. There is no charge for this. Please contact 01785 619000 to obtain an application form and further guidance Alternatively you can download forms.
Do I always need to give Notice to remove part or all my hedgerow, either in whole or in part?
Yes, if your hedgerow is on, or runs alongside:
- agricultural land
- common land, including town or village greens;
- land used for forestry or the breeding or keeping of horses, ponies or donkeys; or
- a Local Nature Reserve or Site of Special Scientific Interest.
No, if it:
- is shorter than 20 metres (unless both ends join up with other hedgerow or it is part of a longer hedgerow); or
- is in, or borders, your garden.
(Gaps of 20 metres or less are counted as part of the hedgerow. A gap may be a break in the vegetation or it may be filled, for example, by a gate.)
You also do not need to give Notice:
- To get access - either in place of an existing opening, provided that you plant a new stretch of hedgerow to fill the original entrance, or when another means of entry is not available, except at disproportionate cost. You are strongly advised however, to contact us prior to undertaking this work;
- To gain temporary entry to help in an emergency; or
- To implement a planning permission granted by the Council (but in the case of permitted development rights, most hedgerow removal WILL require prior permission).
- Other categories are included in the Regulations http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1997/1160/contents/made
What happens after we have received the Notice?
We will confirm receipt in writing and tell you the date by which you must receive a decision.
We arrange for a suitably qualified person to visit the site to see ecological criteria for a hedgerow to be ‘important’ are met. This person may enter your land to make an assessment.
We consult the County Archivist to establish the historic significance of a hedgerow and whether the historic criteria for a hedgerow to be ‘important’ are met
We will also inform the local Parish Council.
What makes a hedgerow ‘important’?
To be 'important' the hedgerow must (i) be at least 30 years old, and (ii) meet at least one of 8 set criteria. The criteria identify hedgerows of particular archaeological, historical, wildlife or landscape value and are listed in summary below.
The Regulations specify in detail how the criteria are met, this is a simplified guide.
A hedgerow is 'important' if it:
1. Marks a pre-1850 parish or township boundary
2. Incorporates an archaeological feature.
3. Is part of, or associated with, an archaeological site.
4. Marks the boundary of, or is associated with, a pre-1600 estate or manor.
5. Forms an integral part of a pre-Parliamentary enclosure field system.
6. Contains certain categories of species of birds, animals or plants listed in the Wildlife and Countryside Act or Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) publications.
7. Within an average 30m length, includes:
(a) at least 6 woody species
(b) at least 5 woody species, and at least 3 associated features;
(c) at least 5 woody species, including a black-poplar tree, or large-leaved lime, or small leaved lime, or wild service-tree; or
(d) at least 4 woody species, and has at least 4 associated features.
(e) at least 4 woody species, has at least 4 associated features and runs alongside a bridleway, footpath, road used as a public path, or a byway open to all traffic
The list of 56 woody species comprises mainly shrubs and trees. It generally excludes climbers (such as clematis, honeysuckle and bramble) but includes wild roses.
The associated features are:
(i) a bank or wall supporting the hedgerow;
(ii) less than 10% gaps;
(iii) on average, at least one tree per 50 metres;
(iv) at least 3 species from a list of 57 woodland plants;
(v) a ditch;
(vi) a number of connections with other hedgerows, ponds or woodland; and(vii) a parallel hedge within 15 metres.
What if the hedgerow is 'important'?
The strong presumption is that important hedgerows will be protected. Unless satisfied that removal is justified, we will issue a Hedgerow Retention Notice to say that removal of the hedgerow is prohibited.
What if the hedgerow is not 'important'?
We cannot refuse you permission to remove the hedgerow. We will write to say that the hedgerow can be removed. This decision does not override any requirements to notify or obtain consent under other legislation, or any contractual obligations.
Can I challenge a Hedgerow Retention Notice?
Yes, you can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate in writing within 28 days of being given our decision. The hedgerow retention notice explains how.
How long does a Hedgerow Retention Notice last?
A Hedgerow Retention Notice is permanent. But if circumstances change, you may submit a fresh removal notice.
What if I hear nothing from the authority?
You can remove the hedgerow if you have not heard from the authority 6 weeks after the date on which we told you that we had received your Hedgerow Removal Notice - unless you have agreed a longer timescale. We have always met the deadline but if you don’t receive the decision you would be strongly advised to check with us in case the decision has been lost in transit to you.
How long does a decision last?
2 years from either the date of the authority's written permission or the ending of the 6 week period. The decision is only for the work set out in your proposal, and no more. You must serve a fresh Notice for anything else.
Where can I get more advice?
More information can be found on the GOV.UK website.
Ideally, you should trim hedgerows no more frequently than every other year, or preferably every third year for slow growing thorn hedges.
Trimming all hedges on the same farm in a single year should be avoided.
Instead, you should adopt a rotational cutting regime so no more than one third of the hedges are trimmed within the same 12 months. This is because some species only flower on second year growth, so annual cutting reduces the subsequent berry crop. There are, however, exceptions as hedgerows alongside roads and farm access tracks may need to be trimmed annually to avoid obstruction.
Young hedgerows (newly planted, coppiced or laid) also need a light annual trim for about 10 years to train them into a good shape and any gaps should be filled with local provenance stock of mixed species.
You should consider adopting set-aside headlands or grass buffer strips alongside hedges, especially those of particular wildlife importance.
Advice for maintaining hedgerows for the benefit of bird species is available on the Farm Hedges and their Management section of the RSPB website.