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Author: Will

The Management of Hedgerows (England) Regulations 2024 now Law!

In April, the Government announced its intention to introduce hedgerow protections, which had lapsed as cross compliance with European rules ended at the beginning of the year. 

Now The Management of Hedgerows (England) Regulations 2024 has been made into law, effective from May 23, 2024, providing a legal baseline for hedgerow management practices. 

This includes: 

  • a 2-metre buffer strip, measured from the centre of a hedgerow, where a green cover must be established and maintained. Also, no cultivation or the application of pesticides or fertilisers should take place within this buffer strip. 
  • a hedgerow cutting ban from 1 March to 31 August (inclusive). 

The new legislation broadly mirrors the previous approach under cross compliance, which should make it straightforward for farmers and others who are familiar with the requirements. 

The Government says the regulations will be enforced by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), in “a fair and proportionate way” and the RPA has been talking to farmers and others about the best approaches. From day one, the RPA says it will take an “advice-led approach”, with stronger actions in only the worst cases.  

The RPA will hold a public consultation on how to implement and enforce these protections in due course. Hedgelink members will be working with the RPA on how best to do this. 

To find out more, please visit https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/2024/05/23/hedgerow-regulations-now-law/  

Progress on protecting rural hedgerows in England

As reported previously, the government has been developing plans to reinstate protections for rural hedgerows in England, which lapsed following the post-Brexit phase-out of European farming policy. Pleasingly, following strong support from a wide range of stakeholders, new regulations have been prepared and were laid in parliament in mid-April. Read on for a summary of the latest progress.

What do the regulations cover?

The new regulations seek to put basic hedgerow management practices into law; the requirements will be familiar to any farmer or landowner that previously received payments under the Basic Payments Scheme.

The rules will include:

  • Requirement that a 2-metre buffer strip, measured from the centre of a hedgerow, is established, and maintained. No cultivation, or application of fertilisers or pesticides should take place within the buffer strip.
  • A hedgerow cutting ban from 1 March to 31 August.

These rules are designed to prevent harm to the structure and health of hedgerows and ensure that they remain valuable assets for wildlife and the environment.

While the rules are generally consistent with previous requirements, if agreed by parliament, they will apply to all agricultural land, rather than only where Basic Payments were received. However, there are some proposed exemptions, and it is recommended that any farmer or landowner refers to the detail in the draft regulations. There is also advice available from sector organisations, such as the NFU. Further guidance will be made available by the government, which should help landowners understand how the rules will affect them.

For clarity, the new regulations cover the management of hedgerows. The removal of hedgerows is regulated by local planning authorities separately under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997, to which there is currently no proposed change.

How will the rules be enforced?

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will be the regulator for the new hedgerow management regulations. Guidance about the rules and enforcement will be consulted on and published in due course, and this will be communicated to key stakeholders. The RPA currently intend to follow an ‘advice-led’ approach, and will seek to be fair and proportionate, but there will also be a range of sanctions that they can use in cases of non-compliance. Further detail should also be forthcoming on any plans for monitoring and reporting – for example, questions remain about whether there will be proactive inspections and if not, how possible breaches of the rules would be identified.

When would they come into force?

If agreed by parliament, the regulations will come into force immediately, reflecting a sense of urgency to bring back these important rules.

We hope that the pace is kept up and that the regulations go smoothly through parliamentary processes. We will keep close watch on this important policy area and provide further updates!

New Hedgerow Management Film from FWAG East – Hedge Your Best

In FWAG East’s short film marking National Hedgerow Week 2024, hedge-conscious farmers explore the best ways to make their hedgerows work for the farm business, delivering value for wildlife AND the bottom line. They conclude there is now ‘no excuse’ for poor hedge management and that you would ‘be a fool not to’ take up the generous funding on offer that supports farmers undertaking more extensive management approaches.

Click here for video

CPRE article: Hedge helpers: the restorative power of hedgelaying

When Christopher Hart teamed up with friends to lay a hedgerow, the results astonished them all.

Find out more in CPRE’s recent article about the power of hedgelaying.

Hedge helpers: the restorative power of hedgelaying

UKCEH Creates Most Comprehensive Map of England’s Hedgerows to Date

Here’s what the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology have to say:

“NEW! We’ve created the most comprehensive map of England’s hedgerows to date!

💡 390,000km of hedgerow on field boundaries

📏 Depicts hedgerow length and height (for the first time!)

🔎 Reveals areas with highest and lowest hedgerow densities  

Hedgerows have been a part of our rural landscape since the Bronze Age, marking boundaries and keeping in livestock. But they also support biodiversity and can capture and store large amounts of carbon as well providing other services including preventing soil loss.  

📉 However half of Britain’s hedgerows were lost between the 1940s and 1990s. Our map will aid targeted hedgerow planting and restoration efforts, linking up habitats and improving the hedgerow network.  

🔍 The map reveals that Cornwall has the highest hedgerow density in England. The lowest densities, excluding major urban areas, are in Surrey, Hampshire, and Berkshire  

UKCEH scientists took high-resolution LIDAR data collected by the Environment Agency and processed these through the JASMIN super-computer to create this ground breaking new map. Its development was funded by UK Research and Innovation’s AgZero+ programme.”

To read more check out the UKCEH’s press release here.