20 April 1999
No hedges, no subsidies, says CPRE

By Isabel Davies

FARMERS should be paid subsidies only if they look after their hedgerows and field boundaries, claims the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE).

Current hedgerow legislation is failing to protect many of Englands important hedges and needs substantial revision, concludes a CPRE report Hedging Your Bets.

Many locally significant hedgerows are not protected because current legislation relies on a national assessment of what is important, it says.

Fewer than one in four hedges are protected by the current rules, according to the CPRE report which surveyed 133 local authorities across the country.

Important hedgerows are being lost because of the gaps in the regulations, said Kaley Hart, CPRE rural policy officer.

The report demonstrates the need for new primary legislation to provide better protection across the whole of the countryside, she said.

A spokesman for the National Farmers Union (NFU) rejected the claims.

All hedgerow removals are subject to notification and our own surveys show that in some areas 60-80% of hedges are protected, he said.

Advice and incentives rather than tighter regulations will better ensure the long term management of hedges, the spokesman added.

Nevertheless, tighter regulations seem inevitable.

The Department of the Environment has already carried out field-scale research on improving the system of protecting hedgerows.

Data from the research is now with the Environment Minister Michael Meacher who is expected to announce a new consultation paper later in the year.