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Fairer Regulation of Farming

Volume 746: debated on Monday 4 March 2024

In June 2023, the Government launched a consultation on how hedgerows should be protected in England. The consultation asked for views on the Government’s proposals to maintain protections for hedgerows by bringing management rules into domestic legislation. These rules included maintaining green cover 2 metres from the centre of a hedgerow, prohibiting hedge cutting between 1 March and 31 August, and the relevant exemptions related to these rules. The consultation also proposed a suite of civil sanctions that could be used to address non-compliance with the rules as part of a proportionate, supportive regime.

Hedgerows are an important part of our countryside and have many important benefits for our wildlife and environment as well as their contribution to the landscape. Although this consultation asked specifically about protecting hedgerows on agricultural land, we also asked where the Government should focus our ambitions for future hedgerows policy. Responses to this question showed strong support for extending protections outside of agricultural land as all hedgerows are important havens for wildlife. The Government will continue to consider how best to support the sustainable management and protection of hedgerows in different contexts, taking account of the views expressed through this consultation.

We know that our farmers and land managers value our hedgerows. There are now over 90,000 km of hedgerows with one or both sides being managed under 16,000 countryside stewardship and sustainable farming incentive agreements in England. Through countryside stewardship capital grants over 13,000 km of hedgerows have been created or restored.

We received 8,841 responses to the consultation, which closed in September 2023. We considered all the responses carefully and have today published the Government response to the consultation on

There was overwhelming support for hedgerow management measures to come into legislation, and we will now bring forward secondary legislation setting these out as soon as possible, to ensure that these important protections are in place quickly. We trust our farmers to look after hedgerows and the new legislation will provide the reassurance that all are following the same management approach. Alongside the continuation of our hedgerow offers in our environmental land management schemes, this will underline a commitment to protecting hedgerows and supporting those who look after them.

The legislation will maintain the same level of protections as previous cross compliance rules did, but our approach to enforcement of the proposed new regulation will be different, with a focus on being fair and proportionate. We have learned lessons from previous approaches and believe that an advice-led approach will result in the best outcomes. We will be talking to farmers and environmental organisations about this, as well as consulting as required by the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008.