Hedgerows Regulations 1997
As part of many developments, the Local Planning Authority (LPA) will ask for an assessment following the guidance in the Hedgerows Regulations (1997) to be done as a means of detecting and determining if any 'important' hedgerows are likely to be affected.
Only countryside hedgerows fall under the legislation. Urban hedgerows are excluded as well as those that form the curtilage of a domestic dwelling. Historically housing expansion has often take in agricultural fields and the developers may have left these in place to form the new garden boundaries for the houses. These 'trapped' hedgerows can still be found today, but are not protected or protectable under the regulations.
The regulations are a good basic starting point to assess the importance of a hedgerow, but there are many shortcomings. One of the major ones is the method of survey. Regardless of the length of hedgerow affected, the maximum number of 30m sections used in the assessment is THREE. So, a 700m hedgerow has only 90m assessed.
Of greater concern is that the hedgerow may have many gaps in it and still be assessable. The regulations regard a gap of more than 20m as defining that there are two hedgerows to assess, one either side of the gap. Developing this concept to its extreme, a hedgerow with a Hawthorn bush every 19m would not have any gaps of 20m or more and would be a single hedgerow for assessment.
From this, no matter where the prescribed 30m assessment sections are they are only ever going to have either one, or two Hawthorn bushes to record, giving it an average score of 1 species and failing to qualify. If the bushes every 19m were all different, i.e., ten bushes and ten species, the 30m sections could only include a maximum of two species, giving a maximum average score of two, even though the whole hedgerow contains 10 species.