For 20 years now, it has been an offence to remove most hedgerows in the countryside without prior approval from the local planning authority.

The purpose of the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 is to protect “important” countryside hedgerows which no amount of replanting could replace. The Regulations apply to all hedges more than 20m in length, or less than 20m if they meet another hedgerow at each end, and grow in or adjacent to:

  • Agricultural land;
  • Common land, including town or village greens;
  • Land used for forestry or the breeding or keeping of horses, ponies or donkeys; or
  • A local nature reserve or Site of Special Scientific Interest.

What is the process to remove a hedgerow?

Before you can remove a hedgerow, you must submit a hedgerow removal notice to the local planning authority which sets out the reasons for removal, and the hedgerow will be assessed against prescribed criteria in the Regulations. In addition, you must provide evidence to show that the hedgerow has existed for less than 30 years, and is therefore not “important”.

The local planning authority has 42 days from the date of receipt of the removal notice to assess the importance of the hedgerow. In doing this they may visit the site and will consult with the local parish or community council. The local planning authority will also consult the prescribed importance criteria set out in the Regulations in carrying out its assessment.

If the planning authority’s decision is to refuse the removal notice, you can appeal the decision within 28 days of refusal.

Do I always need prior approval to remove a hedgerow?

There are a number of exceptions to the requirement for prior approval to remove a hedgerow.  However, it would be sensible to check the exception with the local planning authority before relying on it so as to avoid any misunderstandings. Some of the exceptions include removal to obtain temporary access to any land in order to give assistance in an emergency, removal for the proper management of a hedgerow, removal to obtain access to land where another means of access is not available or is available only at a disproportionate cost and removal to prevent the spread or to eradicate a plant or tree pest. Full details of the exceptions are set out in the “permitted works” section of the Regulations.

What are the penalties for failing to follow the rules?

Removing a hedgerow without prior approval is a criminal offence and can result in fines of up to £5,000 on conviction in the Magistrates Court, or an unlimited fine on conviction in the Crown Court. Planning authorities have legal powers to ensure that another hedgerow is planted if they so wish and the replacement hedgerow will be considered “important” for 30 years after it has been planted.

If you are thinking of removing a hedgerow or have a query and would like to speak to one of our commercial property or agricultural solicitors, please contact us on 0161 941 4000 or email us on

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