Hedgerows to be protected under law to conserve farmland wildlife

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English hedgerows will be protected in law as the government lays out plans for domestic hedgerow regulations following a consultation last year.

These include a two-metre buffer strip from the centre of hedgerows where no cultivation or application of pesticides or fertilisers can be done, and a ban on hedge-cutting between 1 March and 31 August to protect nesting birds.

The changes were backed by almost 9000 consultation responses, with plans to provide support for farmers and land managers by giving them advice to help them comply with requirements.

Alongside this, the government will also introduce a streamlined notification process for farmers needing exemptions to cut hedges in August if they are sowing oilseed rape or temporary grass.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Hedgerows have long-shaped our beautiful countryside and provide homes for a huge variety of birds and wildlife, while delivering clear benefits for water, soil and the climate.

“Our consultation showed just how valued our hedgerows are by farmers, the public and environmental groups alike, and these regulations will mean we can all reap the benefits they bring for generations to come”.

The regulations will support farmers already protecting hedgerows, providing ecological benefits including wildlife habitats, slowing soil erosion and water run-off, supporting crop pollinators and absorbing carbon.

This includes those managed through 16,000 agreements in the government’s Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) schemes, and over 13,000km of hedgerows created or restored using CS grants.

The new requirements will be introduced as soon as Parliamentary time allows and will be regulated by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

Farming minister Mark Spencer said that he was delighted that thousands of farmers were taking up support and guidance on the CS and SFI.

“Farmers have been protecting, planting and maintaining our hedgerows for centuries and I want to thank them for their continued efforts to help wildlife thrive on their farms alongside food production,” he commented.

Plans are also in place for the government to launch a consultation and work with farmers and environmental groups to inform the statutory guidance that will be used to enforce the regulations.

More information can be found here.

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