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Will Britain’s hedgerows remain safe after Brexit?

Cross-compliance regulations protected hedgerows and rivers.

The National Trust, RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts have voiced concerns after European rules that protect rivers and hedgerows on farms ended.

Farmers had to follow cross-compliance regulations to receive rural payments between 2005 and 2023. The rules, which ended on 31 December 2023, included not farming the land up to the edge of rivers — so farm pollution and soil was not washed into the water — as well as protecting hedgerows.

After Brexit, the Government announced these rules would be replaced by new UK laws, which Defra is yet to confirm. 

Conservationist and professional hedgelayer Richard Negus told ST: “The outcry over the cessation of hedgerow and buffer protection seems to me to be another example of non-governmental organisation communication teams indulging in ‘farmer bashing’, rather than focusing on the true issues of habitat loss. 

“Despite the post-Brexit changes to cross-compliance, farmers continue to be bound by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which, among other constraints, protects hedgerows from beingcut or disturbed during nesting season. 

“Equally, it remains that local authority permission must be granted before more than 20m of hedgerow can be removed for agricultural purposes,” he added.