Hedgerows and field boundaries are the very essence of our British countryside, providing vital resources for mammals, birds and inspect species. They improve air quality, store carbon and benefit the rural economy. An important habitat in their own right, they act as wildlife corridors and enhance our cultural and national heritage.
Now we have left the EU and the transition period is over, the Government is able to reward farmers for the work they do to sustainably manage every metre of hedgerow on their land in a way that is right for their area. Part of the sustainable farming incentive is the hedgerow standard, under which ministers will pay farmers to plant more hedgerows, leave them uncut or raise the cutting height. To provide habitat for wildlife, farmers and land managers will be incentivised to maintain and plant more hedgerow trees. Simple actions like planting trees within the footprint of existing hedges can make a big difference.
Hedgerows are legally protected by the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 which prohibit their removal without first seeking approval from the local planning authority. The authority is required to decide whether a hedgerow is ‘important’ according to the Regulations and should not be removed. The Regulations play a valuable role in providing statutory protection for a large proportion of hedgerows in the countryside. When granting planning permission, a local authority has the power to impose enforceable conditions on a developer in order to protect hedges or trees assessed as being worthy of retention, which might otherwise be harmed by construction or the new land use.