25 February 2000
No hedge thanks, it spoils the view
By Johann Tasker
GOVERNMENT officials have refused to allow a conservation charity to plant a traditional hedgerow on its Cambridgeshire farm because it will spoil the view.
The Countryside Restoration Trust has had an application to plant hedgerows on either side of a sheep drove rejected by the Countryside Stewardship Scheme.
The drove runs through a 57ha (140 acre) field bought with heritage lottery fund money in the village of Barton.
The charity, which has about 5000 members, wanted to recreate a sheep drove with hedgerows on its farm, so people could walk along a leafy ashway.
Robin Page, the trusts chairman, described the situation as ridiculous.
He said: “They would only let us put a hedge along one side of the path because they said two hedges would spoil the view.
“To me, thats an absurdity.”
MAFF refused to comment on the incident.
But it is an embarrassment for junior farm minister Elliott Morley, who last week said he wanted 3000 more producers to sign up to the stewardship scheme.
He offered extra payments to farmers who improve the natural beauty and diversity of the countryside.
Mr Page said the stewardship scheme was failing to achieve its objectives of improving landscapes, wildlife habitats and historical features.
The trusts aim is to restore habitats to bring back wildlife and the hedgerow would have done this, he added.
The issue is unlikely to go away.
Mr Page, is an outspoken commentator on rural issues and writes a fortnightly column in the Daily Telegraph.
He has already led a prominent campaign persuading the BBC not to axe One Man and His Dog, the sheepdog trial programme which he presents.
The Countryside Restoration Trust believes sensible farming practices can be sustainable and dont necessarily have to be damaging to the environment.