30 July 1997
Government plans stronger hedgerow protection

THE government has set up a review board to look at ways of providing better protection for hedgerows – after criticising the previous governments hedgerow protection legislation as “inadequate”.

Environment minister Michael Meacher announced details of the board yesterday, which includes everyone from farmers to environmentalists. He said the groups brief was to re-examine the criteria used to define important hedgerows, as well as reassessing the time limits given to local planning authorities to evaluate hedgerow removal notices.

The Tory governments Hedgerows Regulations 1997 Act was tabled in Parliament on March 20, and came into effect on June 1. Its aim was to protect important hedgerows in the countryside by controlling their removal through a system of prior notification.

But on May 29, just four weeks after the general election, Mr Meacher announced that new Labour was dissatisfied with the previous governments regulations – labelling them as “weak and inadequate” – and would immediately set up a new body to review the legislation and make amendments.

“Hedgerows are a vital and valuable part of our countryside, and I am determined to ensure that they are properly protected. The group will think about giving local planning authorities longer to consider hedgerow removal notices, and how to improve the definitions of important hedgerows,” he said.

Mr Meacher said he wanted to see improved regulations in place at the “earliest opportunity” and that he was asking the group to make their recommendations by the end of December.

Members of the review group include

  • the Country Landowners Association,
  • the Countryside Commission,
  • the Countryside Council for Wales,
  • the Electricity Association,
  • English Heritage, English Nature,
  • the Farmers Union of Wales,
  • the Local Government Association,
  • the National Farmers Union,
  • Wales Wildlife and Countryside Link, and
  • Wildlife and Countryside Link.

    The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions chairs the group, with MAFF and the Welsh Office also members.