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Hedge Cutting and Cross Compliance
23 January 2018

All land claimed under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is subject to the rules of cross compliance. It is the claimant’s responsibility to ensure they do not breach any of the statutory management requirements (SMRs) or standards for Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs). The Rural Payment Agency (RPA) penalises claimants who accidentally or deliberately breach these rules. Penalties vary depending on the severity of the breach but can be up to 100% of the claimant’s BPS payment.

There is still some confusion over hedge cutting, partly due to a 2015 rule change which saw DEFRA increase the length of the hedge cutting ban by one month to 1st September. The three key hedge cutting dates for BPS claimants are:

  • 1st March: Ban on cutting trees or hedges starts
  • 1st May: Ban on coppicing and hedge laying starts
  • 1st September: Ban on hedge and tree cutting, coppicing, hedge laying ends

Guidance defines a hedge as: “…a boundary line of bushes which can include trees.” The guidance specifies a hedge is protected if it is:

  • more than 20m long with gaps of 20m or less in its length
  • less than 20m long but meets another hedge at each end

Claimants can apply to the RPA for derogation to allow hedges to be cut from 1st August if the hedges in question are in fields being sown with oilseed rape or temporary grassland in August. Applications are usually processed in 15 working days but those considering applying for derogation should do so as soon as they can.

There are exemptions where a hedge can be cut for safety reasons during the closed period if it is:

  • Blocking or overhanging a highway, road or public right of way
  • Reducing driver visibility
  • Badly diseased or dead

For further guidance on cross compliance rules, please refer to the GOV.UK website.

Please keep in mind that between 1st September and the end of February, although hedges may be cut, this must be in accordance with the Hedgerow Regulations 1997.

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