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Hedges and Ditches

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 49284, tabled on 14 September 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to protect hedgerows across the UK.

Answered on

22 September 2021

Hedgerows are one of the most important ecological building blocks in our farmed landscape. They maintain the distinctive character of our countryside and provide crucial habitats and food for wildlife. Legal protection for hedgerows in England and Wales is provided by the Hedgerows Regulations 1997.

These regulations prohibit the removal of most countryside hedgerows (or parts of them) without first seeking approval from the local planning authority. It decides whether a hedgerow is ‘important’ because of its wildlife, landscape, historical or archaeological value and should not be removed.

A local authority also has the power to impose enforceable planning conditions on a developer to protect hedges or trees assessed as being worthy of retention, which might otherwise be harmed by construction or the new land-use. Land managers in receipt of Basic Payment Scheme payments are also required to protect hedgerows on their land.

Agri-environment schemes such as Countryside Stewardship fund the management of hedgerows to deliver recognised benefits for wildlife, landscape and the historic environment. Hedgerow management is one of the most popular options within Countryside Stewardship.

Following our exit from the European Union the development of our new environmental land management schemes will continue to recognise the role and fund the management of hedgerows. The hedgerow standard, part of the new Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme, will pay farmers to plant more hedgerows, leave them uncut or raise the cutting height.