Hedgerows and Planning
Herefordshire Council refused an application Spring 2017 to grub up almost 700 metres of established hedgerow on farmland north of Bromyard (Planning Application P 171962/H). The proposal was vigorously opposed by HCPRE and provided the opportunity for us to refresh our knowledge of the legislation protecting hedgerows.
In the Upper Sapey case we were able to demonstrate unequivocally, by reference to tithe maps and aerial photographs, that the threatened hedgerows predated the Inclosure Acts.
Why do Hedges Matter?
Hedges are living things that need to be maintained & managed to stay in good condition. They are of great benefit to the landscape and biodiversity and provide environmental benefits. Their beauty in the landscape should be retained for future generations to enjoy.
- Hedgerows play a particularly important role in conserving and protecting farmland and woodland birds and mammals, some of which are protected species. Hedgerow trees provide additional useful habitat.
- Hedgerows act as barriers between polluting fertilisers, pesticides, sediment & watercourses.
- Hedgerows regulate the rate of flow of water within different areas.
- Hedgerows provide firewood – a renewable fuel – for people in the immediate area.
- Well-maintained hedgerows provide both barriers & shelter for stock.
- Hedgerows in urban areas provide sustainable drainage, reduce the amount of air pollution, provide a habitat for urban wildlife and improve the look and feel of built up areas.
Important hedgerows are protected under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 which very clearly state that they must be protected and that a local planning authority will refuse permission for their removal.
Section 5a of the Hedgerow Regulations defines an important hedgerow as one that is at least 30 years old and is at least one of the following:
- 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 the Historic Environment Record (HER).
- Marks the boundary of an estate or manor or looks to be related to any building or other feature that’s 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).
In addition, Natural England Guidance, Countryside Hedgerows: protection and management 2014 (updated November 2016) gives further criteria for defining protected hedgerows. A countryside hedgerow is protected if it meets the criteria for Length, Location & ‘Importance’.
Furthermore, DEFRA guidance is that a hedgerow is important regardless of the current completeness of the Historic field system.
The protected status of important hedgerows is not determined by its species composition, or how it has been maintained. Tightly flailed and gappy hedgerows are protected if they fulfil the above criteria.
Hedges in Herefordshire
We regret seeing large hedges and their hedgerow trees lost to development, instead of being retained to enhance it.
CPRE Herefordshire are pleased that Herefordshire Council safeguards numerous hedges under the Hedgerow Regulations but are still concerned that hedges are continue being unnecessarily lost to development; there is evidence that some hedges are removed unlawfully.
We believe better records should be kept, to enable features that people value to be identified before unthinking felling destroys them.
Surprisingly little information has been gathered about Herefordshire’s hedgerows despite general recognition that this county embraces varied landscapes and it is correspondingly rich in diverse hedgerows, often containing substantial trees.
Herefordshire hedges are mostly old. It was already well hedged when more were planted under Parliamentary Acts, & their associated Awards, in the 18th & 19th centuries.
These Awards transformed 30 or 40% of the landscape of many counties, from an open landscape into one of hedged enclosures. In contrast, less than 5% of Herefordshire was affected because it was already well hedged by the end of the 17th century and probably long before.