These guidelines should be followed by anyone carrying out hedge or tree maintenance; 

Hedge and tree maintenance must take into account the ground conditions; land use, wildlife and highway safety (if next to a highway). 

Always undertake hedge and tree trimming in January and February for the following reasons:

  • It reduces the chance of disturbance to breeding birds and bats whose nests and roosting sites are afforded legal protection under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981
  • Most trees will have finished flowering and seeding
  • It allows the availability of berries and nuts for feeding birds and other wildlife for as long as possible during the winter

Verges and hedge banks (vertical earth or stone bank portion of hedgerow):

  • If you only cut once a year, then carry out between mid-August and the end of September.
  • If more cuts are required cut between mid-August and the end of September and once more before Christmas – or cut in early February and then again during September and October

Ditches:

  • Cut back in late August to late September after seeding and before winter rains return

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Tenants who are claiming funds under the Government Basic Payment Scheme should follow the following guidance to ensure compliance and payment: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/guide-to-cross-compliance-in-england-2016/gaec-7a-boundaries

The Rural Payments Agency should be informed if hedges within a tenancy which is known to be claiming Basic Payment Scheme funds are being cut during 1st March - 31st August (there are exceptions to these dates for health and safety purposes around public access route (see guidance).  The same applies to land which is managed under an Environmental Stewardship Scheme.

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You can help improve biodiversity by:

Hedges and Trees:

  • Only cut on a two or three year (or longer) cycle.
  • If a hedge bordering a road has to be cut annually, consider cutting the top and the field side of the hedge every two or three years (or longer) to prevent long-term decline in hedge health
  • Avoid cutting back the hedge to the same point. Encouraging new shoots close to the base of the hedge helps to produce dense growth (to help with controlling livestock and improving wildlife value)
  • Where a hedge has become over-mature, been abandoned or gaps are appearing the hedge lay or coppice, keeping some trees as standards
  • Do not remove hedgerow saplings, allow them to mature

Hedge banks and verges:

  • Do not remove all vegetation, otherwise they might dry out or be vulnerable to frost, resulting in damage or loss of archaeological features or plant life.
  • Annual management of hedge banks is essential to prevent coarser vegetation becoming dominant.
  • Removing the cuttings will curb the growth of more vigorous plants by reducing soil nutrient levels; compost the clippings

Always remember:

Check for signs of nesting birds

Grow, Flower, Seed then Cut

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Exceptions to these timings:

Work can be carried out at any time of the year where any of the following apply:

  • At road junctions where visibility is paramount
  • On the insides of bends to help highway users stay on their side of the road
  • Around lighting and road signs
  • On trees that have become a hazard to highway users
  • Where ferns and bracken are narrowing the road significantly
  • Any trees that are considered dangerous

In partnership with the Council of the Isles of Scilly, we have produced some guidelines for landowners and tenants who have responsibility for roadside hedges and trees specifically

Roadside_hedge__tree_leaflet_2019.pdf