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Hedgerow protections passed into law before Parliament dissolves - The Tree Council

The Tree Council welcomes the passing of UK Government legislation to protect hedgerows in England, including a cutting ban between March and the end of August.

In April, the Government announced its intention to introduce hedgerow protections, which had lapsed as cross compliance with European rules ended at the beginning of the year.

Now The Management of Hedgerows (England) Regulations 2024 has been made into law, effective from May 23 2024, providing a legal baseline for hedgerow management practices.

This includes:

  • a 2-metre buffer strip, measured from the centre of a hedgerow, where a green cover must be established and maintained. Also, no cultivation or the application of pesticides or fertilisers should take place within this buffer strip.
  • a hedgerow cutting ban from 1 March to 31 August (inclusive).

Annie Heslop, Hedgerow Lead at The Tree Council, said: “The Tree Council welcomes the introduction of UK government legislation to protect hedgerows in England. These regulations put into law important hedgerow management practices to protect nesting birds, and boost biodiversity and carbon storage in our hedge margins.”

The new legislation broadly mirrors the previous approach under cross compliance, which should make it straightforward for farmers and others who are familiar with the requirements.

The Government says the regulations will be enforced by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), in “a fair and proportionate way” and the RPA has been talking to farmers and others about the best approaches. From day one, the RPA says it will take an “advice-led approach”, with stronger actions in only the worst cases.

Nature just the tonic for gin-clear ‘globally rare’ chalk stream in the Norfolk Broads - National Trust

Aerial view of the River Bure on the Blickling Estate in Norfolk | © NTI
Aerial view of the River Bure on the Blickling Estate in Norfolk | © NTI

A project to revive a stretch of precious chalk stream that inspired poets and painters has been completed, marking the culmination of six-years of work led by the National Trust.

Approximately ten kilometres of the Upper Bure in Norfolk have been carefully restored in a bid to bring back its gin-clear waters, improve prospects for wildlife, and reconnect people with the river.

The restoration, which started in 2018 in partnership with the Environment Agency and the Norfolk Rivers Trust as part of the conservation charity’s Riverlands programme, involved re-naturalising sections of the river by adding fallen trees and large branches; installing new ponds and wetlands; reducing soil run-off from fields; and planting over 22,000 trees.

The Riverlands project was funded by The Environment Agency, players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Garfield Weston Foundation, and UKRI (UK Research and Innovation). Partners include Norfolk Rivers Trust, Natural England, The Environment Agency, Norfolk Ponds Project and Norfolk Rivers Internal Drainage Board.

Emily Long, Riverlands Project Manager, said: “Before the start of the project, the Bure was inundated by over 70 tonnes of Himalayan Balsam, which stifled the important native plants that this habitat needs to thrive. With the help of our fantastic volunteers, we were able to de-congest the river of invasive plants, allowing it to really breathe. This work, together with the other steps we have taken, will give the Bure a whole new lease of life with cleaner water, slower flood peaks and a more diverse environment that provides the best possible conditions for the abundance of species relying on this very special habitat.”

Chalk streams are one of the world’s rarest freshwater habitats, with only 220 known examples, the vast majority of which are in England. Their clear waters spring from underground chalk reservoirs, making them a haven for fish such as brown trout and plants like water crowfoot, which bursts into an abundance of white flowers each spring. For centuries, they have been a magnet for writers, artists and fly-fishers.

Sadly, today, many of these habitats have been affected by pollution, artificial river straightening, and abstraction for drinking water.

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