Hedgerows Regulations 1997

What are the Hedgerows Regulations 1997?

Under the Hedgerows Regulations 1997, it is against the law to remove most countryside hedges without first getting the permission of your local council. In Cornwall this is Cornwall Council. These Regulations were introduced to offer protection to 'important hedgerows', as defined by the Regulations, in response to concern at the rapid loss of hedgerows in England and Wales.

This is a very good question and has resulted in the former County Council lobbying for changes to the regulations to make them more applicable to Cornish hedges. The Regulations relate to a 'hedgerow', i.e. a row of trees and/or shrubs (living hedges). In Cornwall, Cornish hedges in their great variety do not always meet this definition. The hedge or field boundary is generally a bank (Cornish hedge) constructed with or without stone. On top of this there may be a hedgerow. The Regulations only apply where there is a hedgerow although a recent appeal case in Cornwall suggests that they do apply if the hedge is capable of having a hedgerow. The situation is not clear and landowners are advised to check with the Planning Service if they are considering removing a hedge.

Cornwall Council have a standard Hedgerow Removal Notice form that you are required to complete.

The Hedgerow Regulations 1997 were made under section 97 of the Environment Act 1995 and took effect on 1 June 1997. They introduced arrangement for local planning authorities (LPAs) to protect important countryside hedgerows through a system of notification. Such hedgerows are frequently valuable because of their historical, ecological and landscape characteristics.

Primary advice regarding the provisions of the Regulations is given in ‘The Hedgerow Regulations – A Guide to the Law and Good Practice’. Anyone proposing to remove a countryside hedgerow must give the LPA 42 days notice (a Hedgerow Removal Notice) of their intentions.

Hedgerows must be on or adjoining land used for agriculture or forestry, the breeding or keeping of horses, ponies or donkeys, common land, village greens, Sites of Special Scientific Interest or Local Nature Reserves. Hedgerows must be joined to another hedgerow at each end or exceed 20 metres in length.

If a hedgerow is subject to a notice and deemed to be important under specified criteria (found in chapter 7 of the Guide and abbreviated below) and older than 30 years, the LPA have powers to serve a Hedgerow Retention Notice, requiring that the hedgerow is retained.

The eight tests of importance are abbreviated below.


Archaeology and history

1   The hedgerow marks the boundary, or part of the boundary, of at least one historic parish or township (existing before 1850).

2   The hedgerow incorporates an archaeological feature which is—

(a)included in the Secretary of State’s schedule of monuments or

(b)recorded at the relevant date in a Sites and Monuments Record.

3   The hedgerow is wholly or partly within an archaeological site or associated with any monument or feature on that site.

4   The hedgerow—

(a)marks the boundary of a pre-1600 AD estate or manor recorded in the Sites and Monuments Record or Record Office; or

(b)is visibly related to any building or other feature of such an estate or manor.

5   The hedgerow—

(a)is recorded in a document held at the relevant date at a Record Office as an integral part of a field system pre-dating the Inclosure Acts or

(b)is part of, or visibly related to, any building or other feature associated with such a system.


Ecology and Landscape

6   Contains certain categories of species of birds, animals or plants listed in the Wildlife and Countryside Act or Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) publications.

7   The hedgerow includes:
(a) at least 7 woody species, on average, in a 30 metre length;
(b) at least 6 woody species, on average, in a 30 metre length and has at least 3 associated features;
(c) at least 6 woody species, on average, ir) a 30 metre length, including a black-poplar tree, or large-leaved lime, or small-leaved lime, or wild service-tree; or
(d) at least 5 woody species, on average, in a 30 metre length and has at least 4 associated features.

The associated features are:

  • a bank or wall supporting the hedgerow;
  • less than 10% gaps;
  • on average, at least one tree per 50 metres;
  • at least 3 species from a list of 57 woodland plants;
  • a ditch;
  • a number of connections with other hedgerows, ponds or woodland; and
  • a parallel hedge within 15 metres.

8   The hedgerow Runs alongside a bridleway, footpath, road used as a public path, or a byway open to all traffic and includes at least 4 woody species, on average, in a 30 metre length and has at least 2 of the associated features listed below.

On the 13 September 2012 Cornwall Council adopted a policy report regarding decisions that it makes in respect of the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. At the core of the report was the following four statements:

  1. Cornwall Council will determine each Hedgerow Removal Notice on its merits but will seek to protect and retain important hedgerows and the circumstances under which an important hedgerow is allowed to be removed are likely to be exceptional.
  2. The presumption in favour of retaining important hedgerows will not be applied rigidly in relation to proposed new gateways. These will be determined by balancing what is reasonably practicable in terms of agricultural management against the value of the particular hedgerow and the anticipated harm.
  3. Cornwall Council will test each Hedgerow Removal Notice against the 8 criteria on a partially sequential basis. Depending upon circumstances a Hedgerow Retention Notice will be served once one or more of the eight criteria have been met.
  4. Where heritage and vernacular landscape features may be affected by a hedgerow removal application the authority will provide advice and guidance on their conservation and management.

The publication: 'The Hedgerows Regulations - Your Questions Answered' can be obtained from the Cornwall Council's Customer Information Centre (0300 1234 202) or from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.