The Hedgerows Regulations were introduced in 1997 to protect this characteristic element of the countryside.
The regulations prevent the removal of most countryside hedgerows without first submitting a hedgerow removal notice to the county council. The regulations also set out criteria that must be used by the council in deciding which hedgerows are important. The council may order the retention of important hedgerows.
The Hedgerows Regulations: Your Questions Answered
Published by: Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
Under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 (Statutory Instrument No 1160):
- it is against the law to remove most countryside hedgerows without permission
- to get permission to remove a hedgerow, you must write to your local planning authority
- if the authority decide to prohibit removal of an important hedgerow, it must let you know within 6 weeks
- 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
This information can only provide limited information and is simply a brief summary with no legal force.
The way in which the Regulations apply to individual hedgerows is quite complex. It is advisable, therefore, to discuss informally with the appropriate officer at an early stage any plans to remove hedgerows - before you formally seek permission. He/she will, on request, provide a written explanation of what action is necessary and why.
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 hedgerows 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 by, for example, a gate.
You also do not need permission to remove your hedgerows:
- to get access:
- 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 willrequire prior permission)
There are further exceptions for reasons of national defence and for removal by the Highways Agency in England or the National Assembly for Wales as the Highways Agency in Wales.
Normal management of your hedgerow does not require prior permission.
No. Removal also includes other actions that result in the hedgerow being destroyed, but coppicing, laying and the removal of dead or diseased shrubs or trees are treated as normal management.
Only the landowner, agricultural tenant, farm business tenant or certain utilities, such as gas companies.
You will have to send us a hedgerow removal notice.
We visit the site to see if the hedgerow is “important” and may enter your land. To be “important” the hedgerow must:
- be at least 30 years old, and
- meet at least one of 8 set criteria summarised at the bottom of this page
The criteria identify hedgerows of particular archaeological, historical, wildlife or landscape value.
The authority must also consult the local parish council in England or community council in Wales.
The authority cannot refuse you permission to remove the hedgerow. They should write to say that the hedgerow can be removed. This permission does not override any requirements to notify or obtain consent under other legislation, or any contractual obligations.
The authority will decide if the circumstances justify removal of an important hedgerow. The strong presumption is that important hedgerows will be protected. Unless satisfied that removal is justified, the authority must refuse permission. They will write to say that removal of the hedgerow is prohibited. This is known as a hedgerow retention notice.
You can remove the hedgerow, if you have not heard, 6 weeks after the authority received your hedgerow removal notice - unless you have agreed a longer timescale.
Two years from either the date of the authority’s written permission or the ending of the 6 week period. The permission is for the work set out in your proposal, and no more. You must seek fresh permission for anything else.
Yes, you can appeal to the National Assembly for Wales in writing within 28 days of being given the authority’s decision. The hedgerow retention notice will explain how.
A hedgerow retention notice is permanent. But, if circumstances change, you may submit a fresh removal notice.
It is a criminal offence, unless one of the exceptions in Q1 applies, to deliberately remove a hedgerow without permission. If you are found guilty by a magistrates’ court you could face a fine of up to £5,000. If tried in the crown court, the fine is unlimited.
The authority could say you must plant another hedgerow. They have legal powers to ensure this happens. The replacement hedgerow is automatically “important” for 30 years after is has been planted.
Grants may be payable under some Government schemes. Some local authorities may also provide funding and the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers may be able to help with practical restoration. Free initial on-farm conservation advice is available through the Countryside Advice and Information Services (CAIS).
The Regulations specify in detail how the criteria are met. This is a simplified guide:
- marks a pre-1850 parish or township boundary
- incorporates an archaeological feature
- is part of, or associated with, an archaeological site
- marks the boundary of, or is associated with, a pre-1600 estate or manor
- forms an integral part of a pre-Parliamentary enclosure field system
- contains certain categories of species of birds, animals or plants listed in the Wildlife and Countryside Act or Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) publications
- at least 7 woody species, on average, in a 30 metre length
- at least 6 woody species, on average, in a 30 metre length and has at least 3 associated features
- at least 6 woody species, on average, in a 30 metre length, including a black-poplar tree, or large-leaved lime, or small-leaved lime, or wild service-tree
- at least 5 woody species, on average, in a 30 metre length and has at least 4 associated features
- The number of woody species is reduced by one in northern counties. 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.
- Runs alongside a bridleway, footpath, road used as a public path, or a byway open to all traffic and includes at least 4 woody species, on average, in a 30 metre length and has at least 2 of the associated features listed in the first five bullet points below:
- a bank or wall supporting the hedgerow
- less than 10% gaps
- on average, at least one tree per 50 metres
- at least 3 species from a list of 57 woodland plants
- a ditch
- a number of connections with other hedgerows, ponds or woodland
- a parallel hedge within 15 metres