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Hedges and Ditches

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL792, tabled on 7 June 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the current rate of removal of hedgerows by (1) housebuilders, and (2) farmers.

Answered on

18 June 2021

The Government does not have an up to date assessment of hedgerow removal but is committed to protecting hedgerows, and other field boundaries, and the habitats they provide.

Hedgelink, a partnership supported by environmental, farming and heritage organisations, has estimated that between 1984 and 1990 the length of hedgerows in Great Britain had declined by about 23%. The Countryside Survey 2000 indicated that by 1998 this decline in the length of hedgerows had been halted.

Legal protection for hedgerows is provided by the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 which prohibit the removal of countryside hedgerows without first seeking approval from the local planning authority. The authority is required to decide whether a hedgerow is “important” according to the criteria in the Regulations and should not be removed. Although there is local variation, research has indicated that, nationally, over 70% of hedgerows in England and Wales are 'important'. The Regulations therefore 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 planning 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.