Beware new rules on trimming hedges and trees

The Farming Advice Service has issued new guidance on cutting and trimming trees, to help farmers meet this year’s cross-compliance rule changes.

Failing to meet the rule changes could lead to farmers losing part of their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), warned Rebecca Barrett of the Farming Advice Service.

See also: How to comply with BPS soil cross-compliance rules

The rules changes include an extension for the closed period where farmers are banned from cutting and trimming hedges and trees from 1 March and 31 August as part of the 2015 cross-compliance.

“While a closed period has always applied under cross-compliance for hedgerow management during the bird breeding season, this has been extended by one month to cover the main chick-rearing season.”

She added that it now also applied to trees under certain circumstances.

For example, if the woodland meets the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) definition of a forest and it is not predominately used as agricultural land, the tree cutting and trimming rules do not apply.

However, if the woodland meets the definition, but is put to agricultural use – for example grazing – or is claimed under the BPS, the cutting and trimming rules will apply.

This is also the case if the woodland is supported under other Pillar 2 schemes, she added.

The tree cutting and trimming rules even apply in cases where a felling licence has been granted, although it is possible to coppice any tree during the start of the closed up to 30 April.

There are some exceptions such as:

  • Trees overhang a highway, or any other road or footpath, endangering or obstructing vehicles, pedestrians or horse-riders
  • Obstructs or interferes with the view of drivers of vehicles or the light from a public lamp
  • It is dead, diseased, damaged or insecurely rooted, and is a risk to people safety
  • Is in an orchard
  • It is cut or trimmed by a statutory authority acting under its statutory powers.

She explained: “You don’t need to write to Rural Payments Agency [RPA] in advance asking for an exemption but if you get inspected you must be able to prove how and why you used the exemption.”

Finally, farmers can apply to the RPA for a derogation under certain circumstances, one useful example being for oilseed rape growers, allowing them to cut or trim a tree in a hedgerow during the month of August for the purposes of sowing oilseed rape.

For more information, visit the Farming Advice Service website.