Mark Whitehead 31 May 2023

Hedgerows in England threatened by cuts

Hedgerows in England threatened by cuts image
Image: Carol Tyers / Shutterstock.com.

Hedgerows in England are under threat because of Government plans to cut funding, farmers and nature groups have warned.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has called for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to keep the regulations which applied when the UK was in the EU or replace them with a similar policy.

They say hedges are vital habitat for many species, providing food and shelter for mammals, birds and pollinators, with the EU paying farmers under its farming subsidy scheme to have them on their land.

But they warn that in the transition to post-Brexit farming payments, aimed at paying land managers to protect and conserve nature, a scheme that encouraged the laying and maintenance of hedges could be lost.

Alice Groom, head of sustainable land use policy at RSPB, said: ‘The future of over 547,000km of hedgerow alongside agricultural land is now under threat.

‘As spaces for wildlife we believe hedgerows are an essential part of creating a vibrant countryside and should be recognised as part of the effort to halt species decline in England, as well as helping to keep carbon locked up.

‘So we are asking Defra to commit to the protection of our precious hedgerows and ensure that they continue to have the basic protections as afforded under the basic payments scheme.’

A Defra spokesperson said: ‘Our Countryside Stewardship schemes are already helping farmers maintain and restore over 10,000km of existing hedgerow and plant an additional 4,000km of hedges right across the country.

‘We are also introducing a new Sustainable Farming Initiative hedgerow standard this year to pay farmers to assess the condition of hedgerows and manage them in a way that will work for wildlife and improve biodiversity – and we will shortly be consulting on how to best further protect them as we phase out CAP.’

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