Hedgerows are living things that need to be maintained and managed to stay in good condition. Our lost hedgerows have become the most visible aspect of damage to the English countryside.
Aerial photographs from 1940 show an almost complete network of hedgerows across most of the country, even in areas of arable farming. Yet in the 25 years between 1950 and 1975, they disappeared in huge numbers. This has badly damaged the beauty and diversity of our landscape.
Three things are needed to protect our hedgerows: stronger regulation, more funding and more local control.
The Government's Hedgerows Regulations, which were only created in 1997, urgently need to be strengthened. In particular, CPRE calls on the Government to introduce a landscape criterion to these regulations. This would give local authorities more discretion to protect hedgerows that are important to the character of the local landscape.
Since 2005, hedgerow management options have been a popular element of the Government’s Environmental Stewardship scheme, an agri-environment scheme for farmers and land managers. By 2009, 41% of hedgerows in England were actively managed under such schemes, and six per cent had been restored. The Government must continue to fund this and similar agri-environment schemes.
Local people need to be able to champion and protect the hedgerows in their local area. Hedgerows should be a part of in landscape character assessments. In this way, people would be able to include hedgerows as one of the key elements that make a place distinctive and which protect or enhance landscape character.