Guidance on trimming field perimeters

28 June 2022

Farm business
A picture of fields separated by margins and a hedge

The NFU's BPS experts have put together a short guide on the points to consider when trimming field perimeters or boundaries, such as headlands, margins and hedges.

This guide is aimed primarily at compliance with the BPS rules.

You will also need to consider any other obligations you have on this land, i.e. whether the land is entered into an agri-environment scheme or has a land designation such as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

This guide should be read in conjunction with the RPA’s published guidance on BPS and cross compliance, available at GOV.UK: Basic Payment Scheme 2022 – rules for 2022

Points to consider prior to trimming

Other schemes – If the land in question is entered into an agri-environment scheme (i.e. HLS, CS etc.), check the option rules prior to trimming field perimeters as you may be restricted on the approach and timing of any cutting that is carried out.

Public rights of way – If there is a public right of way on the perimeter, you need to ensure that the route is not obstructed and is kept clear.

Further information on GAEC 7b can be found on GOV.UK: Guide to cross compliance in England 2022

Land designations – Check whether there are any land designations, which may restrict what activity can be carried out, i.e. SSSI.

Disturbance to wildlife – Consider disturbance to any wildlife or flora and fauna, which may be covered by legislation e.g. Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Water and ditches – Some bank sides leading to water/ditch bottoms may be covered by Internal Drainage Board activity and therefore covered by other parties.

Cross compliance considerations

Visit GOV.UK for further information: Guide to cross compliance in England 2022

GAEC 1 – Establishment of buffer strips along watercourses

For all fields you must take all reasonable steps to maintain a green cover on land within 2 metres of the centre of a watercourse/field ditch, or to land from the edge of the watercourse/field ditch to 1 metre on the landward side of the top of the bank (GAEC 1).

This includes not placing spoil from the watercourse/ditch within 2 metres of the centre of the watercourse/ditch.

GAEC 7a – Boundaries

For fields over 2 hectares and where a hedge is five years old or more, you must take all reasonable steps to keep a green cover on land within 2 metres of the centre of a hedgerow (GAEC 7a).

The GAEC 1 and GAEC 7a rules do not allow any storage within 2 metres of the centre of the watercourse/ditch or hedge. For example, you must ensure any straw/hay stacks are not within the protection zone.

You are not able to cast up a traditional hedge bank between 1 March and 31 August (GAEC 7a).

GAEC 7c – Trees

You must not wilfully damage or destroy, uproot, top or lop any tree in a conservation area or protected by a Tree Preservation Order (GAEC 7c).

You must not cut or trim a tree or hedgerow between 1 March and 31 August (inclusive), unless any exemptions apply or a derogation has been granted. (GAEC 7a & 7c).

One of the exemptions allows for the trimming of a hedge at any time, if it overhangs a highway, road or footpath over which there is a public or private right of way and the hedge obstructs or is a danger to vehicles, pedestrians or horse riders.

For more information on applying for a derogation visit: Applying for a hedge cutting derogation

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