Development sites often include hedgerows and a local authority may request a detailed hedgerow survey before they will consider a planning application. Some hedgerows ('Important Hedgerows') are protected by law and it is illegal to remove them without permission. A hedgerow survey identifies which hedgerows are protected. It is a criminal offence to remove a hedgrow without permission and offenders may be subject to a fine of up to £5,000. If tried in the Crown Court the fine is unlimited.
Some hedgerows can be literally hundreds of years old and include signs of traditional management, such as hedgelaying or 'plashing'. Many people are familiar with 'Hooper's Rule', which states that a hedgerow gains one woody plant for every century of growth. Hedgerows may be associated with a bank, a ditch, an archaeological feature or mark the boundary of a pre AD1600 estate. All of these features add to the hedgerow's value and determine whether or not it is legally protected.
Hedgerows surveys are normally carried out in the spring and summer, when the plants can be easily identified. A survey can be carried out at other times of the year by an experienced botanist, but the results may be open to challenge. The survey normally follows the methodology set out inthe Second Edition of the Hedgerow Survey Handbook, which was published by DEFRA in2007.
Hedgerows are defined as "as any boundary line of trees and shrubs over 20m long and less than 5m wide at the base, provided that at one time the trees or shrubs were more or less continuous". A hedgerow must satisfy a number of criteria before it can be classed as an 'Important Hedgerow' but any hedge with seven or more woody species in a 30m stretch is likely to be classed as one.
Cheshire Ecology Ltd. has considerable experience of carrying out hedgerow surveys. Please ask us to quote.