Cutting and clearing dates, one EU law that is likely to remain

While the UK is in the throes of negotiating its way out of the EU, and the myriad of rules and regulations that a 40-year membership has created, there are many environmental regulations that are likely to remain in place and continue to have an impact upon both the countryside and the farming community.

One of those is the restriction on when farmers or landowners can cut and trim hedges and generally tidy the land. 

Under the cross compliance legislation, which includes Statutory Management Requirements and Agricultural and Environmental Conditions, several restrictions have been placed on landowners and farmers with the aim of promoting public, animal and plant health; environment and climate change; the condition of the land; and animal welfare.

The most relevant to us at Dodd & Co and many of our clients are the rulings on hedge cutting and trimming; and clearing land.

Hedge trimming is permitted until the start of March

Hedge trimming is permitted until the start of March


Under the legislation, you are not allowed to cut or trim your hedgerow between 1 March and 31 August unless you have applied for a derogation from the Rural Payments Authority (RPA) and received written permission or any of the following apply:

    •    The hedgerow overhangs a highway, road or footpath over which there is a public or private right of way and the overhanging hedgerow obstructs the passage of, or is a danger to, vehicles, pedestrians or horse riders

    •    The hedgerow is dead, diseased, damaged or insecurely rooted and because of its condition, it or part of it, is likely to cause danger by falling on to a highway, road or footpath; or obstructs the view of drivers or the light from a public lamp

    •    It is to carry out hedge-laying or coppicing during the period 1 March to 30 April (inclusive)

    •    It is to trim a newly laid hedgerow by hand, within six months of it being laid

Orchards are not included in the ruling and coppicing and hedge laying is allowed from 1 March until 30 August.

Under a separate ruling but still part of the cross compliance legislation, it is not permissible to burn heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium on land (other than in upland areas) from 1 April until 1 October.

The implementation of these cutting and clearing dates was introduced under new EU Regulations requiring the protection of birds during both the breeding and rearing season.

While many EU regulations are despised by people in the UK, there is little doubt that some of the regulations regarding the management of the countryside and environmental improvements are both for the good and here to stay. The results can be seen for themselves.

  • Under the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, farmers have voluntarily put aside more than 450,000 hectares of land for wildlife.
  • More than 70 per cent of English farmland is managed under agri-environment schemes.
  • The amount of hedgerows has risen by 50,000km since 1990 to 550,000kms.
  • England has about 190,000km (118,000 miles) of public rights of way which criss-cross farmland - 78 per cent of those trails are footpaths. There are more than 33,000km of rights of way in Wales.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from British farming have been cut by 20 per cent since 1990.
  • The overall bird population across England is relatively stable. Of the specialist farmland birds a number are showing population increases Goldfinch, Stock Dove and Whitethroat. The numbers of Wood Pigeon and Jackdaw have more than doubled.
  • There are over 478,000 ponds in Great Britain, with 70,600 created in the ten years up to 2007.
  • More than 40,000 hectares of farmland in England are managed under an unpaid, soil related environmental measure.
  • There has been a long-term declining trend in fertiliser nutrient applications with nitrogen applications in England and Wales down by 30 per cent and phosphate applications down by 57% between 1990 and 2012.
Birds, insects and other wildlife is benefitting from agricultural practices

Birds, insects and other wildlife is benefitting from agricultural practices

For advice about cutting, clearing and general agriculture, equine or small-holding construction, contact Jamie Dodd on 07766 815830