Working on countryside hedgerows
Last Updated: 11 October 2022
Countryside hedgerows are protected by the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. The guidance below outlines the correct procedure to follow if you want to carry out work on a hedgerow or remove a hedgerow.
Check if a hedgerow is protected
A countryside hedgerow is protected if it meets the following criteria for: Length, location and importance.
A hedgerow is a boundary line of bushes which can include trees and is protected if it is:
- more than 20m long with gaps of 20m or less in its length
- less than 20m long, but meets another hedge at each end
- any stretch within the above
A hedgerow is protected if it is on or next to:
- land used for agriculture or forestry
- land used for breeding or keeping horses, ponies or donkeys
- common land
- a village green
- a site of special scientific interest
- a protected European site such as a special area of conservation or special protection area
- a national nature reserve
- a local nature reserve
- Crown land (land belonging to Her Majesty)
Protection does not apply to hedgerows in or marking the boundary of private gardens.
A hedgerow is important (and therefore protected) if it’s at least 30 years old and meets at least one of these criteria:
- marks all or part of a parish boundary that existed before 1850
- contains an archaeological feature such as a scheduled monument
- is completely or partly in or next to an archaeological site listed on a Historic Environment Record (formerly a Sites and Monuments Record)
- marks the boundary of an estate or manor or looks to be related to any building or other feature that is part of the estate or manor that existed before 1600
- is part of a field system or looks to be related to any building or other feature associated with the field system that existed before the Inclosure Acts (that is before 1845)
- contains protected species listed in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
- contains species that are endangered, vulnerable and rare and identified in the British Red Data books
- includes woody species and associated features as specified in Schedule 1, Part II Criteria, paragraph 7(1) of the regulations. The number of woody species needed to meet the criteria is one less in northern counties (see paragraph 14) of the regulations
Apply to remove a countryside hedgerow
You should discuss your proposal to remove a hedgerow with us first to make sure it’s legal to do so. Please complete the Hedgerow removal application form (PDF/175KB/3 pages).
You’ll need to:
- clearly identify which hedgerow you propose to remove by marking it on a large scale plan (preferably 1:2,500 scale)
- say why you want to remove it
- provide evidence that the hedge is less than 30 years old, such as a receipt of the plants, a photograph taken within the last 29 years or relevant documentation
- state whether you are the owner, tenant or manager of the hedgerow, or the relevant utility company eligible to remove it
How we will respond
We have 42 days to respond to your written notice to remove a hedgerow. If you have not provided enough evidence we will ask you to send in appropriate documents. The 42-day deadline will start again from the date we receive all your documents. In that time we must consult with the relevant parish council. Parish councils can ask for more time to consider your proposal, but all parties must agree a new deadline.
We can issue:
- a hedgerow retention notice - if the hedge is protected and must be kept
- a written notice giving permission to remove it in the way you have proposed
You have up to 2 years from the date of the written notice giving you permission to remove the hedgerow. You must apply for permission again if you allow 2 years to elapse.
You can remove the hedgerow if you don’t hear back from us within the 42-day period.
We must keep a public record of all hedgerow notices that we issue. We don't have to consult anyone, except the local parish council, but we must consider any objections we receive.
Appeal a hedgerow decision
You can appeal if we have sent you either:
- a retention notice, saying you can’t remove a hedgerow
- a replacement notice, telling you to replace a hedgerow you have already removed
You must appeal within 28 days of our decision.
Countryside hedgerow maintenance
Management of a hedgerow, for example clipping or laying, does not need consent. If you are in any doubt what restrictions there may be to trimming, cutting, coppicing or laying a hedgerow, please contact us before you start work.
You must not do any work which might harm nesting birds or destroy their nests. Nesting birds are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1980. You’ll usually find nesting birds during the main nesting and breeding season from 1 March to 31 August.
Report a suspected offence against nesting wild birds or their eggs to the local police. Ask for a wildlife crime officer to investigate for illegal activity.
Protection of trees in countryside hedgerows and licensing
Before carrying out work on hedgerow trees you must check if:
- the tree(s) are protected by a tree preservation order (TPO)
- you need a felling licence - issued by the Forestry Commission
- the tree(s) are in a conservation area
Submitting a planning application where trees in a hedgerow may be affected
You have to take trees into consideration when assessing a planning application for proposed development.
Find out what is needed when submitting a planning application where trees are on or adjacent to the site: