© Tim Scrivener

Theresa May has responded to a contractor’s appeal to reverse the August hedgecutting ban.

Northamptonshire hedgecutting contractor Bob Rutt wrote to the prime minister last month to complain that the ban was costing him and contractors up and down the country thousands of pounds in lost income.

In his letter, Mr Rutt asked Mrs May to consider relaxing the August hedgetrimming ban, which was brought in by Defra in 2015 as part of an EU directive to protect nesting birds.

See also: FW hedgecutting petition delivered to Defra

In a letter sent on behalf of Mrs May to Mr Rutt, Sir Simon Burns, former Conservative MP for Chelmsford, said: “I’m grateful to you for bringing to the prime minister’s attention your concern about the deadline imposed for hedgecutting.

“I know that she will be very pleased that Tom Pursglove (Conservative parliamentary candidate for Corby and East Northants) has been doing a good job.

“I’m afraid while the general election campaign is under way, there is little scope to address this concern at the moment.

“I note that Tom Pursglove has been working on this issue with you and would suggest that, should he be re-elected, you request that he take up your concerns with the relevant ministers to seek a change in the rules.”

Mr Rutt told Farmers Weekly that he was very encouraged by the response.

“I’m grateful that Prime Minister Theresa May has recognised the plight of the hedgecutting contractor and the impracticalities that the August hedgecutting ban causes,” he said.

“The nearly 2,000 readers who backed Farmers Weekly’s petition to overturn the ban will be glad that the government is taking this issue seriously.”

FW hedgecutting campaign

Farmers Weekly launched a petition urging Defra to overturn the August hedgecutting ban in February. FW editor Karl Schneider and deputy news editor Philip Case delivered the petition to Defra’s offices in London in early May.

Phil Case and Karl Schneider delivered the petition to Defra

Phil Case and Karl Schneider delivered the petition to Defra

Defra farm minister George Eustice responded by saying he had been following the campaign and understood that contractors and farmers felt strongly about the issue.

“I am open to proposals that would allow a risk-based approach, taking account of the prevalence of local populations of vulnerable bird species like the yellowhammer, which are likely to have a second brood later in the summer,” said the minister.

“These will all be issues for policy development as we prepare to leave the EU.”

How to apply for a derogation to trim hedges in August

If you are a farmer who wants to sow oilseed rape or temporary grass during August 2017, it is possible to apply to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to request a derogation from the cross compliance hedge or tree cutting/trimming ban.

To apply for a derogation, email the RPA at ruralpayments@defra.gsi.gov.uk or write to: RPA, PO Box 352, Worksop, S80 9FG. The heading should be “Cross compliance derogation”, and explain that you want to sow oilseed rape or temporary grassland in August 2017.

Please include the following information:

  • SBI and business name
  • Either the land parcel reference numbers where the hedges or trees that are to be cut/trimmed are located, or a map showing the sections of the hedge or trees that are to be cut/trimmed
  • Any other supporting evidence, for example photographs or diagrams

Requests should be submitted as soon as possible to allow the RPA time to issue confirmation in writing. The cutting or trimming work cannot start until written confirmation has been received from the RPA.

(Source: The Central Association of Agricultural Valuers)