Countryside Hedgerows

The Hedgerows Regulations 1997 came into force under Section 97 of the Environment Act 1995. The regulations allow the planning authority to protect 'important' countryside hedgerows by controlling their removal through a system of notification. Hedgerows within a garden or forming a garden boundary are not covered by this legislation.

What hedgerows do the regulations cover?

Hedgerows which are on or bordering:

  • agricultural land
  • common land, including town and village greens
  • land used for forestry
  • land used for the breeding or keeping of horses, ponies or donkeys
  • a local nature reserve or Site of Special Scientific Interest

Does the hedge have to be a certain length or can small sections be removed without consent?

If your hedgerow is an isolated hedge less than 20m in length and does not have other hedges attached to it or gaps of more then 20m between another hedge and the next section of hedge, then you do not need to notify the planning authority should you wish to remove it or any part of it.

If your hedgerow is more than 20m in length then you will need to notify the planning authority should you wish to remove it or any part of it.

If your hedgerow is less than 20m but connects with other hedge(s), then removing all or even a small section of hedgerow will require notification. Gaps of 20 m 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.

When do I not need consent to remove a hedgerow?

  • 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
  • to gain temporary entry to help in an emergency
  • to comply with a statutory plant or forestry health order
  • to comply with a statutory notice, for preventing interference with electric lines and apparatus
  • 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).

There are further exceptions for reasons of national defence and for removal by the Highways Agency. Normal management of your hedgerow such as trimming or coppicing out-grown stems do not require prior permission.

The regulations seem complex - where can I get more information?

  • See the guidance at gov.uk.
  • A leaflet - The Hedgerows Regulations: Your Questions Answered - provides a brief summary of the law.
  • More detailed guidance is in The Hedgerows Regulations 1997: A Guide to the Law and Good Practice.

Both are available by contacting The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) by email: farmland.conservation@defra.gsi.gov.uk.

What is the process to remove a hedgerow?

Anyone wishing to remove or destroy a hedgerow will need to give the planning authority six weeks' notice of their intention to do so.

The six weeks allows the planning authority to assess the hedgerow in accordance with the criteria set out within the Hedgerow Regulations. The criteria relate to the archaeological / historical importance of the hedgerow or the landscape / ecological value of the hedgerow. This is not a subjective assessment, as the regulations specify in detail how the criteria are met.

The planning authority consults the County Archaeologist and the County Ecologist on Hedgerow Removal Notification to undertake the specific assessment.

How do I notify the planning authority?

If you wish to remove a hedgerow then you must give the Planning Authority six weeks' notice by completing a standard notification form number 21. There is no fee for this notification process. You can:

What happens if the hedgerow is assessed as meeting the criteria set in the regulations?

If a hedgerow is found to be important under the criteria for archaeological / historic value and or landscape / ecological value, then the planning authority will refuse consent for the removal of the hedgerow by issuing a Hedgerow Retention Notice. In coming to a decision, the local planning authority will have considered the reasons given on the form for the removal of the hedgerow and whether or not they justify the removal of an important hedge.

You should note that there is a presumption against the removal of ‘important' hedgerows.

If I receive a Hedgerow Retention Notice, what does this mean?

If you receive a Hedgerow Retention Notice, the planning authority has decided that your hedgerow is ‘important' in accordance with the criteria as specified in the Regulations. It means that you cannot remove the hedge or any part of the hedge in question. The Hedgerow Retention Notice and thus the prohibition are not time limited. They last until such time as:

  • the hedgerow retention notice is withdrawn, under regulation 5 (8); or
  • the hedgerow retention notice is quashed, under regulation 9 (3) (b), as a result of a successful appeal; or
  • a fresh removal notice is submitted, in response to which a retention notice is not issued. A fresh removal notice may be given at any time, but the outcome is likely to be the same unless there has been some change in circumstances since the local Planning Authority last considered the matter

Can I appeal against the Hedgerow Retention Notice?

Yes, if you are aggrieved by the planning authority's decision to issue a Hedgerow Retention Notice, you can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate within 28 days of receiving the Hedgerow Retention Notice from us. Details of the appeal process will be contained within the Retention Notice. The Planning Inspectorate may allow the appeal, vary the decision or dismiss the appeal.

What happens if the hedgerow is assessed as not meeting the criteria set in the regulations?

If the hedgerow is not found to be ‘important' under the criteria for archaeological / historic value and or landscape / ecological value, then the planning authority will issue a Hedgerow Removal Notice.

If I get consent, how long does the permission last?

If you get consent for the works to remove a hedgerow, then this consent will be valid for two years from the date on the planning authority's Hedgerow Removal Notice.

What will happen if I remove a hedgerow or part of a hedgerow without consent for the work?

It is against the law to remove most countryside hedgerows without permission. If you decide to intentionally or recklessly remove a hedgerow or part of a hedgerow or cause or permit another person to remove a hedgerow you may face an unlimited fine. This is irrespective of whether the hedgerow would have been ‘important' or not. In determining the amount of fine, the Magistrates Court will take into account any financial benefit arising from the offence. You will normally have to plant a replacement hedge if you removed it without consent. This is called a Hedgerow Replacement Notice.

If I receive a Hedgerow Replacement Notice, what does this mean?

You may receive a Hedgerow Replacement Notice if you have removed a hedgerow in contravention of the regulations - in other words, removed it without consent. This notice will require you to plant a replacement hedgerow to a certain specification and within a specified timescale. It will also require you to undertake maintenance of the hedgerow to ensure successful establishment.

Can I appeal against the Hedgerow Replacement Notice?

Yes, if you are aggrieved by the planning authority's decision to issue a Hedgerow Replacement Notice you can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate within 28 days of receiving the Hedgerow Replacement Notice from us. Appeals against Replacement Notices are handled in the same way as Retention Notices and details of the appeal process will be contained within the Replacement Notice. The Planning Inspectorate may allow the appeal and the notice may be quashed or modified, or the appeal may be dismissed.

Are there any other rules about hedgerows I should know?

If you are going to work on a hedgerow - whether it is for removal, coppicing, laying or trimming - there are legal constraints other than the Hedgerows Regulations you need to take into consideration.

  • Birds: Wild birds and their nests, while in use or being constructed, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). This also applies to any eggs that the nest may contain. Therefore, in order to avoid killing, damaging, destroying or recklessly disturbing nesting birds, works to hedgerows should be avoided between March and August inclusive. Hedgerows should always be checked for signs of breeding activity before work is undertaken.
  • Bats: It is important to survey mature trees for the presence of bats before undertaking works to trees. Bats and their ‘roost' sites are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, the latter of which deems them a European Protected Species. It is a criminal offence to recklessly disturb or destroy a known or suspected bat roost, even if the roost is only occasionally used.

Offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act are investigated by the police.

What about tress within hedgerows?

Trees within agricultural hedgerows are considered to be part of the hedgerow and therefore their removal is considered as part of hedgerow removal. Consent should be sought through the Hedgerow Removal Notification process.

If you are felling more than 5m of timber in a quarter calendar year (these trees may be within hedgerows, fields and woods, but not gardens), then you may require a Forestry Commission Felling Licence.

Offences under the Forestry Act are investigated by the Forestry Commission and can result in prosecution and / or Replacement Planting Notices being served.

You may also require consent from the planning authority to work on trees if trees within the hedgerow are the subject of a Tree Preservation Order or within a Conservation Area.

What other restrictions may exist?

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

A hedgerow may be on land designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

If the hedgerow is within a SSSI, you will need to contact Natural England to seek written consent before undertaking any work.

Inclosure Acts

A number of hedgerows are protected by ancient Inclosure Acts that may require the hedges to be retained and managed in perpetuity. Information relating to Inclosure Acts is deposited in County Records Offices and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office.

You should seek legal advice relating to Inclosure Acts before removing a hedgerow.

Restrictive Covenants

Land and property can be subject to covenants or other restrictions; details can be found in the title deeds of a property or perhaps in the conditions of a lease. It may therefore be necessary to obtain consent from a third party as well as the Local Authority / Forestry Commission / Natural England etc. before undertaking works to trees or hedgerows.

You should seek legal advice relating to restrictive covenants.

Planning Permissions

Some planning permissions may require the retention of hedgerows on a development site and to remove them would be in breach of the planning consent. You should check that there are no restrictions on your development site before the removal of a hedgerow.

Who can I contact for more information?

Please send enquiries to planning.applications@stratford-dc.gov.uk or call 01789 260304.

Last updated on 07/11/2018

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