Guide to cross compliance in England: 2016

GAEC 7a: Boundaries

You must protect boundary features, such as hedgerows (hedges), stone walls, earth banks and stone banks because they’re important landscape features.

A. Hedges

The rules on hedges apply to any hedge growing in, or adjacent to, any land which forms part of your holding and which has one of the following:

  • a continuous length of at least 20 metres, or is part of any such length
  • a continuous length of less than 20 metres where it meets (at an intersection or junction) another hedge at each end

Any gap of 20 metres or less and any gap resulting from a breach of the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 will be treated as part of the hedge.

You must:

  • take all reasonable steps to keep a green cover on land within 2 metres of the centre of a hedge.

You must not:

  • cultivate or apply fertilisers or pesticides to land within 2 metres of the centre of a hedge. Fertilisers include: inorganic and organic fertiliser, organic manures, lime, slurry, sewage sludge, slag, trace elements, calcified seaweed and human waste (not an exhaustive list).

Pesticides mean anything used for destroying pests and include herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and other biocides.

You won’t break these rules if you’ve used pesticides for the spot application to control the spread of any of the weeds listed in GAEC 1, or you’ve cultivated land for one of these reasons:

  • to establish a green cover where one doesn’t exist and the land is part of a field which is being newly created (whether by merger or division)
  • to establish a green cover where one doesn’t exist and the land was previously outside the scope of cross compliance
  • you have written permission from RPA to do so, in order to enhance the environment, improve public or agricultural access, or for reasons relating to livestock or crop production.

These rules do not apply:

  • to land either side of a hedge which is less than 5 years old (you’ll need to keep documentary evidence to prove this)
  • to land forming part of a parcel of 2 hectares or less, as measured within permanent boundary features

  • to land on the side of any hedge which is facing a dwelling where the hedge marks a boundary of the curtilage of the dwelling
  • to the casting up of a traditional hedge bank between 1 September and the last day of February (inclusive).

Cutting, trimming and removal

You must not cut or trim a hedge between 1 March and 31 August (inclusive) unless:

  • the hedge overhangs a highway, road or footpath over which there is a public or private right of way and the overhanging hedge obstructs the passage of, or is a danger to, vehicles, pedestrians or horse riders
  • the hedge 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 hedge by hand, within 6 months of it being laid
  • you have received written permission from RPA to cut or trim during the month of August for the purposes of sowing oil seed rape or temporary grassland during the same August.

You must not remove all or part of a hedge unless one of the exemptions in regulation 6 of the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 applies or you have told your local authority (or National Park Authority if your land is in a National Park) in writing of your proposal, and have either:

  • received written permission to carry out the removal
  • have received no reply from the authority within 42 days of your notification.

The removal must be carried out in accordance with the proposal specified in the hedge removal notice and the hedge must be removed within the period of 2 years from the date on the hedge removal notice.

The cutting, trimming and removal rules do not apply:

  • to hedges within the curtilage of a dwelling-house
  • to the side of any hedge facing a dwelling-house when the hedge marks the boundary of the curtilage of the dwelling-house.

B. Stone Walls, Earth Banks and Stone Banks

Rules for stone walls, earth banks and stone banks must be followed if any of these apply:

  • it has a continuous length of at least 10 metres
  • it has a continuous length of less than 10 metres which meets another boundary at each end
  • it has a continuous length of less than 10 metres which forms an enclosure

An earth bank is a mound without a hedge, distinct from the surrounding land form. A stone bank is an earth bank faced with natural stone.

You must not:

  • remove existing stone walls, earth banks and stone banks
  • remove earth or stone from an existing stone wall, stone bank or earth bank.

The rules in section B don’t apply if you:

  • widen an existing gateway in a stone wall, earth bank or stone bank to allow machinery or livestock access. The gateway should be no wider than 10 metres and the newly created ends finished to a vertical face
  • use the stone or earth removed from the stone wall, earth bank or stone bank to repair another stone wall, earth bank or stone bank on your holding which is in a better condition than the one you remove the stone or earth from
  • have written permission from RPA to do so, in order to enhance the environment, improve public or agricultural access, or for reasons relating to livestock or crop production.

More information

You should read the ‘Hedgerows Regulations 1997: A Guide to the Law and Good Practice’. To get a free copy email:farmland.conservation@defra.gsi.gov.uk.

There is also more guidance online about ‘Countryside hedgerows: regulation and management’. Contact RPA for information about hedge derogations which may be available.

Contact

Natural England: 0345 600 3078
Rural Payments Agency: 03000 200 301
Defra helpline: 0345 933 5577