The future of hedgerow protections – NFU response

12 October 2023

Environment and climate
A hedgerow alongside a farm

Defra is consulting on how to ensure hedgerows in England continue to get the right level of protection as we move away from cross compliance which is due to end by 2024. The consultation is now closed, on this page you can see a summary of our key asks on behalf on NFU members.

Defra sought views on:

  • how the protection of hedgerows should be approached after the end of cross compliance
  • the sanction regime that could be applied to enforce compliance

They provided two possible paths, either the adoption of cross compliance rules into domestic legislation through the Hedgerow Regulations 1997, or spending longer to create a new domestic body of policies distinct from the cross compliance rules. Adopting the existing rules would come into force by mid-2024, while the longer approach would take at least a year if not longer to establish.

To find out more about current hedgerow cutting derogation rules, visit: Applying for a hedge cutting derogation

david exwood portrait 04

“Farmers are well-placed to decide how best to manage hedges and where to plant them to ensure food production is not significantly compromised.”

NFU Vice President David Exwood

NFU members can read further background information on the consultation further down the page.

NFU consultation response

Of the two regulatory approaches, the NFU would prefer an approach building on the current rules from cross compliance, as they provide an adequate basis in balancing farming practicalities with environmental protection.

The NFU and its members would like to see more detail as to how the proposed sanction regime would work. Details as to how enforcement would be undertaken would be particularly welcome.

One of our key asks remains that any regulatory framework minimises burden for farmers, ensuring farmers are not forced to spend valuable time and resources on complying with bureaucratic exercises, a satisfactory balance must be struck.

We welcomed the shift towards a more cooperative and educational role for the regulation of hedgerows and would like to see further dialogue about how this will be brought about and what mechanisms will be used to ensure consistency in regulatory application is maintained.

NFU members can log in and read the further detail on our consultation response, including detail on 2m buffer strips, cutting dates, exemptions and sanctions.

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  • 28 June: Defra launches its consultation, seeking views on the best way to maintain and improve existing protections of hedgerows as cross compliance comes to an end.
  • 5 July: NFU responds to the call for evidence, seeking member input as part of its response.
  • 20 September: NFU publishes its consultation response, citing a preference to build on the current rules from cross compliance.