28 July 1995

Act aims to protect hedgerows

By Peter Bullen

FARMERS will face more regulations and restrictions following the arrival of the Environment Act on the statute book.

Chief of these will be new controls over farm hedgerows. By this time next year farmers could find themselves in court facing stiff penalties for illegally removing important hedges.

What constitutes an important hedge and exactly how local authorities will safeguard them is still to be worked out. Fierce lobbying by the NFU and the Country Landowners Association resulted in the failure of the government-backed private members Hedgerow Bill in 1993. But it could not thwart a determined Department of Environment a second time. However the persistent lobbying did result in some important concessions:

&#8226 The government gave assurances that farming and landowning interests will be considered in the consultation process this autumn to define important hedgerows.

&#8226 It agreed that farmers and landowners should be allowed to appeal against refusal of consent to remove a hedgerow.

&#8226 It also conceded that the regulations should come before both the Commons and the Lords for positive agreement.

An important concession wrung out of the government by the industry will help safeguard rural communities when the new Environment Agency, established under the Act, begins work next April. Both the agency and ministers responsible for it will have a duty to consider how any proposals affect the economic and social well-being of local communities in rural areas. &#42