Under the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 you cannot remove most hedges without permission. Removal is uprooting or otherwise destroying a hedgerow.
Proper maintenance, including coppicing, severe pruning and ‘laying’ are allowed without specific permission.
There are a few exceptions. These include essential utilities work and emergency access.
The regulations only cover hedgerows that are:
- at least 20 metres long or that are connected to other hedgerows at both ends, or are part of a longer hedgerow
- in or next to common land, village greens, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Local Nature Reserve or land used for agriculture, forestry or breeding or keeping of horses, ponies or donkeys
Trees within a hedgerow are considered to be a part of the hedge and are therefore subject to the restrictions of these regulations.
Individual trees and groups of trees may also be protected. Find out more about tree preservation orders and check the status of a tree on our protected trees page.
Apply for permission
If you wish to remove all or part of a hedgerow you need to make an application.
Protecting nesting birds
Avoid cutting hedges and trees between March and August. This is the main breeding season for nesting birds. If the work is urgent, sensitive methods can be used to avoid harm to nesting birds with the advice of a qualified ecologist.
It is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built.
For example, it is an intentional act if you or your neighbour know there is an active nest in the hedge and still cut the hedge, damaging or destroying the nest in the process.