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Hedgerow regulations

Information about what a countryside hedgerow is, difference between a hedge, applying to remove a hedgerow, cost of application, what happens after, how to appeal, exemptions, what hedgerows can be protected, what is considered important, what you can do to a hedgerow and what are the penalties for destroying a hedgerow.

What constitutes a protected hedgerow?

These regulations relate to any hedgerows that are growing on, or adjacent to, land used for agriculture.  Hedges within garden areas of dwellings cannot be protected under this legislation.

Read more about assessment criteria

Is there a difference between a hedge and hedgerow?

Yes. A hedge is a line of trees or shrubs maintained to form a physical boundary. A hedgerow is this same line of trees or shrubs but in association with other flora and fauna and physical features such as banks and ditches, in other words a complete ecosystem.

How do I apply to remove a countryside hedgerow?

You need to submit a planning application to request removal of a countryside hedgerow. This is formally known as 'serving a removal notice' and is done by completing the appropriate planning form. The link will take you to the "Apply for planning permission" page and forms can be accessed via the answer to "How do I apply for planning permission".

How much does it cost to submit an application to remove a countryside hedgerow?

There is currently no charge for an application to remove a countryside hedge.

Where can I view applications to remove countryside hedgerows?

View applications through the council’s Public Access website.

Follow the instructions to the 'Planning' > 'Simple Search' page.

Choose the type of search required and enter the required information into the search box.

You can also register your details on this website in order to submit comments against any pending applications.

Please note that to view the documents associated with the application, you will need to select the ‘Associated Documents’ tab and then select the link ‘View associated documents’.

Public access planning (external East Riding website)

Facilities are available for you to view current applications on the Public Access website at any of the council's libraries. Find your nearest library.  You can also print copies at a charge. View library charges.

For ease of search you will need either the application reference number, postcode or single line of an address to view the application. A member of the library staff will be able to assist you if required. You can also register your details on this website in order to submit comments against any pending applications.

What happens after I have submitted my application?

Once you have served a hedgerow removal notice by completing the appropriate planning form, the council must decide within six weeks if the hedgerow is an important hedgerow as determined by the criteria set down in the legislation.

If the hedgerow is considered to meet these criteria the application to remove will be refused and the refusal will constitute a hedgerow retention notice.

Read more about the assessment criteria

Can I appeal against the refusal of a hedgerow removal/retention notice?

Yes. An appeal must be made within 28 days of the date of the formal decision. If the application is refused then the decision will be in the form of a hedgerow retention notice. Appeals should be lodged with:

Planning Inspectorate
Registry/Scanning
Room 3/05 Kite Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay
Bristol
BS1 6PN

You can access the appeal forms and receive advice on appeals via the Planning Portal from the following link. 

Planning Portal - Hedgerows (external website)

Are there any exemptions from the need to notify?

Works to hedgerows may proceed without prior notification to the local planning authority where works are:

  • to make a new opening in substitution for an existing one that gives access to land. For example, a gate. However, the old one must be filled in within 8 months
  • to obtain temporary access to land in an emergency. For example where the removal of a stretch of hedgerow was necessary to allow access for an ambulance
  • to obtain access to land where other means are not available or are only available at disproportionate cost
  • for national defence purposes
  • where planning permission has been granted but not, in most cases, where the development is under permitted development rights
  • to carry out work under certain Acts of Parliament for flood defence or land drainage purposes
  • by an authorised inspector to prevent the spread of a plant disease
  • by the Highway Agency
  • to protect or prevent danger to electric lines and plant
  • for the proper management of the hedgerow. This means real management, such as coppicing. But if the hedgerow is deliberately 'over-managed' this might qualify as removal.

Can any countryside hedgerow be protected?

No. The hedgerow must meet certain criteria in terms of length, age, species composition or historical significance.

Read more about the assessment criteria

What are the criteria that are assessed to judge whether a hedgerow can be considered important?

For the hedgerow regulations to apply a hedgerow must have a minimum length of 20m (65 feet) (less if adjoins another hedge at each end) and have an age in excess of 30 years.

The regulations specify in detail what the criteria are and the following is a simplified guide. To be considered important a hedgerow would be assessed for importance against the following points:

The hedgerow:

  • 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
  • within an average 30m (98 feet) length, includes:
    (a) at least 6 woody species
    (b) at least 5 woody species, and at least 3 associated features
    (c) at least 5 woody species, including a black-poplar tree, or large-leaved lime, or small leaved lime, or wild service-tree; or
    (d) at least 4 woody species, and has at least 4 associated features
    (e) at least 4 woody species, has at least 4 associated features and runs alongside a bridleway, footpath, road used as a public path, or a byway open to all traffic, and
  • the list of 56 woody species comprises mainly shrubs and trees and generally excludes climbers (such as clematis, honeysuckle and bramble) but includes wild rose.

 The associated features are:

  • a bank or wall supporting the hedgerow
  • less than 10% gaps
  • on average, at least one tree per 50 metres (164 feet)
  • at least 3 species from a list of 57 woodland plants
  • a ditch
  • a number of connections with other hedgerows, ponds or woodland, and
  • a parallel hedge within 15 metres (49 feet).

What can I do to a hedgerow without having to serve a hedgerow removal notice?

You can do anything to a hedgerow other than remove it i.e. dig it up and grub it out.

You may even cut it back to ground level as long as the operation is to encourage new growth from which to develop a better hedge.

The cutting of the hedge should not destroy the associated flora or any banks and ditches which make up the hedgerow.

Can planning conditions protect a hedgerow?

Where planning permission has been granted for development, hedgerows may be protected as a condition of that permission.  Any works to such a hedgerow will require consent from the council and an application for a variation of the planning condition may be required. 

Further enquiries of this nature should be either emailed to beverley.dc@eastriding.gov.uk  or be directed to (01482) 393792.

What are the penalties for destroying a hedgerow in contravention of the hedgerow regulations?

If convicted of an offence in the Magistrates Court a fine of up to £5000 can be imposed. More serious cases may be tried on indictment in the Crown Court, where fines are unlimited. There will also be a requirement to replace the hedgerow.

What if there is wildlife in the hedgerow?

Birds

Many wildlife habitats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 making it an offence to kill, injure or take wild birds, their young, their eggs or nests. 

Non-urgent major tree work involving tree removal/reduction and hedge cutting operations should not normally be undertaken during the bird nesting/breeding season, which is considered to be from 1 March to 31 August, subject to the species and the season. 

If any proposed works is scheduled to take place in the main bird breeding season the potential impact on nesting birds and the risk of committing an offence is increased. 

Therefore, in such an instance the council would advise that a survey for active bird nests should be carried out.  If active nests are found works should be avoided until the breeding attempt has ended.

RSPB - Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981- Section 1 (external website)

Bats

Bats are European Protected Species and are protected by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

It is an offence to kill, injure, or take any bat. 

It is also an offence to interfere with places used by bats for shelter or protection, or to intentionally disturb bats occupying such places. 

The presence of bats or bat roosts is not always obvious and it is recommended that you consult a qualified bat surveyor. 

The Forestry Commission's website contains more details and guidance:

Forestry Commission (external website) 

Read more about protecting animals and plants.

How do I report a wildlife offence?

If you suspect an offence is/has been committed in relation to wild birds or a protected species then report the incident to your local police force.

Ask for the case to be investigated by a Wildlife Crime Officer (WCO) if possible and ask for an incident number so you can go back to them if needed. If the offence is on-going report it to the police by telephoning 101.

I wish to discuss a hedgerow regulation issue. Who do I contact?

Please contact us via e-mail at nature.conservation@eastriding.gov.uk  or by telephone on (01482) 393723.

Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2017