9 June 2016

King West

Hedgecutting Ban Update

Farm Boundaries Hedge Cutting Ban: Cross Compliance Derogation.


The guide to Cross Compliance in England 2016, which encompasses the Basic Payment Scheme, states that farmers must protect boundary features such as hedgerows (hedges), stone walls, earth banks and stone banks because they are important landscape features. Defra stated that the rules around hedge cutting have changed to protect nesting birds. The adjustment in hedge cutting ban dates saw the protected season extended from 2015 to stretch to seven calendar months.


The rules on hedges apply to any hedge growing in, or adjacent to, any land which forms part of a farmer’s holding and encompasses a continuous length of at least 20 meters, or has a continuous length of less than 20 meters where it meets another hedge at each end.


If your hedges meet either of these criteria, you must take all reasonable steps to keep a green cover on the land within 2 meters of the central point of the hedge. Cultivation or application of fertilisers or pesticides is banned within this strip, unless using spot applications of pesticides to control the spread of specific listed weeds. You will not be considered to be in contravention of these rules if the land is being cultivated to establish a green cover where one presently doesn’t exist, where the land was previously outside the scope of cross compliance or there is written permission from the RPA to do so, in order to enhance the environment through public or agricultural access or for reasons relating to livestock or crop production.


A cross compliance derogation may be applied for in relation to the above requirements, in particular; to prepare land ahead of harvest and of summer sowed crops such as the planting of Oil Seed Rape seed. The derogation application process is typically 6-weeks in length. Applications to request permissions to cut back hedges before harvesting or crop sowing should be filed immediately by landowners on receipt of a Basic Payment. Timely applications will ensure cross compliance derogation is granted in advance of the key farming dates on the UK calendar.


The change in ban dates has created a heated debate, with the NFU Vice-President recently being quoted in Farmer’s Weekly as dubbing the ban extension ‘overregulation’ which significantly inconveniences farm management.


The cutting of hedges on arable land is now legally banned from March to the 1st August to protect nesting birds on farms. The dates are set by Defra and are based on an analysis of the British Trust for Ornithology nest records taken over the past 10 years, monitoring over 40,000 nests across 150 species of birds breeding across all habitats. 50 farmland bird species were monitored as a part of the study, including red-listed species such as lapwing, turtle dove, linnet, cirl bunting and yellowhammer. It is farmland bird species such as these, shown to have active nests through to the end of August, which have been showing declining numbers over the past 50 years, that the hedge cutting ban is looking to protect.



If you require support or advice with the application process, please contact me at your earliest convenience;

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