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Hedge-cutting: Know the rules for 2015

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NFU members can read a briefing on the new derogation to trim hedges where oilseed rape or temporary grass is being planted in August. Click here.

This year saw the introduction of new rules for hedge-cutting under cross compliance.

It means that you are not allowed to cut or trim your hedgerow between 1 March and 31 August unless you have applied for a derogation from the RPA and received written permission or any of the following apply:

  • The hedgerow overhangs a highway, road or footpath over which there is a public or private right of way and the overhanging hedgerow obstructs the passage of, or is a danger to, vehicles, pedestrians or horse riders
  • The hedgerow is dead, diseased, damaged or insecurely rooted and because of its condition, it or part of it, is likely to cause danger by falling on to a highway, road or footpath; or obstructs the view of drivers or the light from a public lamp
  • It is to carry out hedge-laying or coppicing during the period 1 March to 30 April (inclusive)
  • It is to trim a newly laid hedgerow by hand, within six months of it being laid

The change in cutting dates from 2014 was introduced under new EU Regulations requiring the protection of birds during both the breeding and rearing season.

The NFU has lobbied against the later cutting date. When that proved unsuccessful, we fought for and secured a derogation where oilseed rape and grass crops are being planted in August.

To obtain a derogation you must have written permission from the RPA to cut or trim during August for the purposes of sowing oil seed rape or temporary grassland during the same month.

Guy Smith_119_180NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “The NFU is pleased that Defra recognised the practical and agronomic need for farmers to be able to cut hedges in August for those intending to sow oil seed rape or temporary grass.

“Our first preference has always been to seek an exemption to allow hedge-cutting in August and we have continued to question the evidence to justify the non-cutting period for hedges. Since Defra’s announcement on derogation in November, our priority has been to seek a simple and easy process. We have been working with Defra and the RPA to clarify the process and we are pleased that they have listened to our arguments to keep the process of application for a derogation as straightforward and as pragmatic as possible.”

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  • Posted by: NormanPosted on: 06/03/2015 13:30:51

    Comment: ridiculous and needless change to sept 1 start date.birds don't nest that late else chicks not strongenough to winter. beuro madness
  • Posted by: ANDREW GOODRIDGEPosted on: 13/03/2015 16:59:59

    Comment: It is good to see the interests of the birds being protected but as some one who has planted over half a mile of new hedges,is in a hedge scheme and has many different red alert birds I wonder when my needs will be protected and those of my workmen who work long hours which is safe and possible in the summer months but not in winter with dark evenings and short days. Days which are ideal for filling in forms at a slow broadband speed on non existant RPA schemes. Am I the only farmer losing the will to live?
    The only nesting site on my farm in August is one created by the farm students who come to help out with the harvest!
  • Posted by: BillPosted on: 10/06/2015 18:24:40

    Comment: Over 40years of hedge trimming, I have never been aware of nesting birds in August so maybe someone needs educating in Brussels? Stupidity Rules Again
  • Posted by: Andrew HutchinsonPosted on: 13/07/2015 12:06:26

    Comment: who ever makes these rules up want to come and see the state of the hedges when try to cut yrs of growth off. been hedgecutting for 25 yrs and all u ever do is make things harder for us contractors time u all woke up in the real world u should leave the country side alone let us keep it tidy not a mess like its in now thanks
  • Posted by: RogerPosted on: 14/08/2015 17:12:17

    Comment: The only birds that nest this late would be lazy Pigeons, most of the rest of the year farmers are trying to kill them to prevent devastation of crops such as Oilseed Rape. The pressure on hedge cutting contractors having lost a month out of their season, and the abilities a non harvest day presents for farmers to start cutting hedges in August, these are just another burden the rule makers thrown at us. Please can we have rule makers that have actually seen a farm.
  • Posted by: BobPosted on: 20/08/2015 18:10:23

    Comment: The people that makes these rules up probably have never been in the countryside in their lives, they are just sat at a computer and make it up as they go along. I have been hedge cutting for many years, very rare do i see a birds nest with eggs in it in August, if there is then the sparrow hawks get them. This will make me a month later for my work, which means i will have to work twice as many hours in a day, if i happen to get fed up then i could always get a job working for Defra in an office 9-5.
  • Posted by: Robin BarnesPosted on: 20/08/2015 21:02:09

    Comment: Do the hedge-cutting rules restricting cutting from Sept 1 only covers those with CS agreements or is it a national law?
  • Posted by: Brian CorbettPosted on: 27/08/2015 05:29:05

    Comment: IF hedges were cut properly - in an A-shape, rather than the old-style table shape - with a pronounced inward angle and a narrow top, then the work involved in cutting them is REDUCED and the base of the hedge remains thick.
    IF the hedge is cut properly - alternate sides on alternate years, thus maximising the food and shelter available to wildlife - then the work involved in cutting a hedge is reduced (both measures together) by 60% or so.

    So - you would IMAGINE that every farmer in the land would be seeking to adopt the correct hedge-cutting procedure - and then cut their hedges which abut road verges and permanent pasture in the depths of winter, on cold, frosty spells - just as their forefathers always did.

    And not flail-cut the life (literally) out of hedges but smashing them to bits in late summer.

  • Posted by: Joanne KingPosted on: 30/09/2015 13:09:17

    Comment: I am always disappointed to see hedges which are full of brambles, hawthorns , hips, and elderberries chopped down in September. Surely these are all important food sources for birds and other small animals? It is also not the right time of year to cut if you are going to get flowers and then berries in the following year (Flowers come on the previous year's growth). Not disturbing nesting birds is a good reason, but surely not the only one, for avoiding cutting hedges at certain times of the year.
    I will continue to be disappointed if the only reason the hedges are cut in September is to fit in with a human being's workload!!
  • Posted by: R J PerryPosted on: 21/01/2016 13:40:51

    Comment: I have a hedgerow adjacent to my property and because I had to cut back some of it in July/august last year due to its proximity to my house(about 20feet away)and to keep a ditch clear,the farmer took great umbridge and is refusing to cut this year although he has done all along the rest of the hedge,what is the situation?
  • Posted by: R J HollidayPosted on: 27/01/2016 14:07:46

    Comment: My neighbour an cereal producer has decided not to cut the hedgerow bordering our property.Have I the right to cut it?
  • Posted by: james richardsonPosted on: 06/08/2016 09:19:06

    Comment: One use perhaps of leaving the EU - make plans appropriate to the UK?
  • Posted by: Roy ForbesPosted on: 30/08/2016 13:16:01

    Comment: I live in the Countryside of South Shropshire and we are surrounded by hedgerows that this year have been allowed to grow and extra metre in height. I needed to trim some growth off one adjacent to my property and as I was cutting it a middle aged woman on horse back came up and told me I shouldn't do that and think of the wildlife. My own country hedge in my garden is kept neat and tidy and attracts more and more small birds every year whereas the other hedges in the village just attract pigeons and crows. Now the hedges get so wide and tall it is becoming more and more dangerous to walk along the pathways or venture into the roadways.
  • Posted by: jwPosted on: 29/03/2017 16:17:29

    Comment: I have always thought that cutting a hedge in winter time was the best time to work as there are no leaves on the hedge and no (or should I say little) wildlife to disturb ,this is surley the best time to work
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