Hedgerows, like trees, can make an important contribution to the character of an area and may be historically (and occasionally archaeologically) important as indications of land use and previous ownership. They also contribute significantly to biodiversity.
The removal of a hedgerow is unlikely to require planning permission, but if removal is proposed as part of a planning application then its impact on the heritage significance of the area and its impact on the setting of any heritage assets around may be taken into account in accordance with planning policies in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) (1) and the local development plan.
Aside from the planning system, hedgerows are offered some protection under The Hedgerow Regulations 1997 (2). This complex mechanism offers some protection for hedgerows of more than 20 metres in length or which join other hedgerows provided they adjoin agricultural land, forestry, paddocks, common land, village greens, a site of special scientific interest or a local nature reserve.
In order to remove such a hedgerow an owner must serve notice on the local planning authority who then decides if it is 'important' and if so it is whether it should be retained. If the owner is notified that it is not important or hears nothing within six weeks after the notice is served then they may remove the hedgerow. If no notice is served or if a notice is issued by the local planning authority requiring the hedgerow’s retention, then removal of the hedgerow is a criminal offence.
A hedgerow is 'important' if it has existed for 30 years or more and it meets one of the criteria set out in the Regulations, which include: