Hedgerow management rules: cutting and trimming

Find out when you are permitted to cut and trim hedgerows on or next to land used for agriculture.

Applies to England

These rules came into force on 23 May 2024.

The hedgerow management rules aim to protect hedgerows on agricultural land as these are important ecological building blocks across our landscapes. Hedgerows provide habitat, act as wildlife corridors, slow soil erosion and water run-off. They also support crop pollinators and sequester carbon as well as enriching the landscape.

There are hedgerow management rules on buffer strips and cutting and trimming.

Cutting and trimming rules 

You must not cut or trim a hedgerow that is covered by the rules from 1 March to 31 August. You must not cause or permit another person to cut or trim such a hedgerow.  

Check if the rules apply to a hedgerow  

A hedgerow is a line of bushes which can include trees. Any trees growing in a hedgerow will be treated as part of the hedgerow. It also includes hedgerows on top of a traditional hedgerow bank. 

The cutting and trimming rules apply to a hedgerow if it meets the criteria for both: 

  • length 
  • location 


The rules apply if a hedgerow is: 

  • more than 20m long with gaps of 20m or less in its length 

  • less than 20m long, but meets another hedgerow at each end 

Any gap of 20 metres or less will be treated as part of the hedgerow.


The rules apply if a hedgerow is growing on, or next to, land used for agriculture, including:  

  • horticulture  
  • fruit growing  
  • seed growing  
  • dairy farming  
  • the breeding and keeping of livestock – this includes horses, ponies and any animal kept for its use in farming, or for the production of food, wool or skins  

It includes grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens, nursery grounds and allotments. And woodlands where agricultural activities take place.  

Exemptions from the rules 

Cutting or trimming is permitted from 1 March to 31 August in the following situations. 

You do not need to notify the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to ask for the exemptions listed. You must keep a record of all works that you carry out under an exemption. If you are visited by the RPA you must be able to prove how and why you relied on the exemption. 

Public and private rights of way 

The hedgerow overhangs a highway, road or footpath over which there is a public or private right of way and the overhanging hedgerow:  

  • obstructs the passage of users 
  • is a danger to users  
  • obstructs the view of users 
  • obstructs the light from a public lamp  

The hedgerow 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. 

Hedge-laying and coppicing 

To carry out hedge-laying or coppicing during the period 1 March to 30 April. Or  to trim a newly laid hedgerow by hand, within 6 months of it being laid. 

Boundaries of a private garden 

The hedgerow is within the curtilage of a dwelling house. Or the hedgerow marks the boundary of the curtilage of a dwelling house (this applies to both sides of the hedgerow). 

Risks to plant, human or animal health 

You need to prevent or treat serious causes of harm to plant health. Or there is a risk to human or animal health or safety. 

Weed or pest infestations 

You need to prevent or treat a serious pest or weed infestation. 

Work required by a statutory body 

Work is carried out by any statutory body (for example a utility company) acting under statutory powers. 

Exemptions when sowing oilseed rape or temporary grass in August 

You need to notify the RPA each year before you can cut or trim a hedgerow in August to sow oilseed rape or temporary grassland during the same August.  

You must keep a record of all works that you carry out under an exemption. If you are visited by the RPA you must be able to prove how and why you relied on the exemption.

Cutting or trimming is only permitted on: 

  • the in-field side of the hedgerow (and the top of the hedgerow if it’s not possible to cut it from an adjoining field) 
  • the length of the hedgerow next to where you will sow the oilseed rape or temporary grass 

You must also check the length of the whole hedgerow for birds, nests and eggs. If you find any, you:

  • cannot cut or trim that hedgerow
  • must follow your responsibilities under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Notify the RPA before trimming or cutting a hedgerow to sow oil seed rape or temporary grassland 

To notify, you must email or write to the RPA.  

You should: 

  • include details of the crop to be sown  
  • all relevant land parcel numbers 
  • use the subject heading ‘Hedgerow management cutting and trimming rules notification’ 

You do not need to wait for written permission before carrying out any work. As long as you meet the rules of this provision, you only need to make sure your notification is received by the RPA. You should make sure therefore that you receive an acknowledgement of your notification from the RPA before carrying out any work. For email notifications this will be the automated RPA acknowledgement.  

When you need written permission (derogations) for exemption from the rules  

You can apply to the RPA for written permission (a derogation) to be exempt from the cutting or trimming rules between 1 March and 31 August. A derogation could be granted for any of the following reasons: 

  • it would enhance the environment 
  • it is necessary in relation to livestock or crop production 
  • it would improve public or agricultural access 

How to apply for written permission (a derogation) 

To apply for a derogation, you must email or write to the RPA.  

You should: 

  • send all the available evidence (for example, photographs or diagrams) 
  • explain what you want to do 
  • include the land parcel numbers you want the derogation for 
  • use the subject heading ‘Hedgerow management rules derogation’  

You must wait for the RPA to consider your request and grant any successful derogation in writing before carrying out any work. 

Exemptions are limited to the hedgerow management rules 

These exemptions only apply to the hedgerow management rules on cutting and trimming. When carrying out any actions related to the above exemptions, you must follow any other rules or legislation in place, for example, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. 

Report a suspected breach of the rules 

Before reporting a suspected breach, you should read these rules.

To report a suspected breach, you should telephone, email or write to the RPA.  Provide as much information as possible, including location, timings and photographs or footage if you have them.  

In your email or letter use the subject heading ‘Hedgerow management rules report of a suspected breach’. 

What to expect on a visit by the Rural Payments Agency

The RPA is the regulator for these rules and may visit your land to check compliance with these regulations. The RPA could gather evidence during any visit, for example, copies of records or documents or take photographs. Where circumstances make it necessary to gather immediate evidence, or to prevent harm to hedgerows, visits could take place with little or no notice.

The RPA will discuss their findings with you before leaving. You will receive written confirmation of their findings which will include any advice and guidance. The RPA will work with you to ensure you are supported to comply with regulations, taking a fair and proportionate approach to enforcement.

You must allow any visit to take place. Any person who wilfully obstructs an RPA officer is guilty of an offence and could be liable to a fine of up to £1000.

Offences and enforcement

These rules came into force on 23 May 2024. You will have committed an offence if you do not follow the rules from this date.

Where the RPA finds you have not followed the rules, it will use an outcome focused approach. This approach is supportive of those the RPA regulates doing the right thing but allows it to take action in the more serious cases.

Advice and guidance will be prioritised before taking enforcement action unless in cases of significant harm. The RPA will use appropriate interventions aimed at helping those it regulates to comply.

Enforcement action could include either civil sanctions (Stop Notices, Compliance Notices, Restoration Notices and Variable Monetary Penalties) or prosecution.

The RPA will hold a public consultation on how to implement and enforce these protections in due course. This is required by the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008. Any such civil sanctions will not be considered until this consultation has concluded and the response is published.

Contact details 

Telephone: 03000 200 301
Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm.



Rural Payments
PO Box 352 
S80 9FG

Updates to this page

Published 23 May 2024
Last updated 12 July 2024 + show all updates
  1. Updated 'Exemptions when sowing oilseed rape or temporary grass in August' section. Clarified that you must still follow the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 rules. 

  2. First published.

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