For many years removal of countryside hedgerows was encouraged in order to make larger fields for agriculture. This has had a negative effect on many different species of wildlife, and also impacted on the way the countryside looks today. The hedgerows regulations were brought into force to stop this decline and try to encourage the planting of more hedgerows.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) defines a hedgerow as ‘any boundary or line of trees or shrubs over 20m long and less than 5m wide, and where any gaps between the trees or shrubs species are less than 20m wide. Any bank, wall, ditch or tree within 2m of the centre of the hedgerow is considered to be part of the hedgerow habitat, as is the herbaceous vegetation within 2m of the centre of the hedgerow.
Hedgerows in the U.K are one of the many features of the countryside which we take for granted. Hedgerows play an important part as boundaries between different fields, wind breaks which prevent crops from being damaged and allow shelter to livestock, and important features for wildlife. Many different species use hedgerows. Birds use hedgerows to shelter and raise their young. Bats use hedgerows to navigate and forage above. Great crested newts use hedgerows to move between different habitat features such as ponds and woodlands.
Before removing or cutting a gap into any hedgerow, lodge a hedgerow removal notice with your local council. The council will then have a number of days to reply to you either to allow the removal of the hedgerow or to refuse it. The hedgerows regulations only apply to important hedges, UES can carry out a hedgerow survey which will tell you whether the hedgerow is classed as important or not. If you remove a section of hedgerow before receiving permission from the council then you may be subject to prosecution under the regulations.
For further information on hedgerows, their conservation value and legislation issues visit the Hedgelink website listed below.