Hedgerow Cutting Season Begins
Hedges can be cut from 1 September until the end of February. The Wildlife Act, 1976 (2000) prohibits hedge cutting during the bird nesting season. Here Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist and Anthony Dineen, Teagasc Advisor simplify the rules and regulations around Hedges.
Timing of hedge cutting
Hedges can be cut from 1 September until the end of February. The Wildlife Act, 1976 (2000) prohibits hedge cutting during the bird nesting season. Under Cross Compliance, the following question is asked for Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions 7B 'Is there evidence of the cutting of hedges and / or trees during the bird nesting and breeding season (1 March – 31 August)'?
Under Cross Compliance hedges and drains have been designated as landscape features. Since 2009, they cannot be removed / piped and closed in unless a replacement hedge / drain of similar length is planted / dug at a suitable location on the holding in advance of the removal of the hedge or drain. If farmers have removed hedges since 2009, they can be penalised any stage. To avoid a penalty they should have replaced any removed hedges.
With the greater emphasis on biodiversity including hedges, the preferred option is not to remove hedges in the first place. Where, in exceptional circumstances, it is necessary to remove a hedge, line of trees or fill in a drain for good reasons such as farmyard expansion, farmers may do so provided a new hedge, line of trees or drain of equal length and like for like i.e. a hedgerow is replaced with a hedgerow comprising of traditional hedgerow species is planted or dug in advance of the removal of the old hedge, line of trees or drain. Hedge species used must be traditional to the area and cannot include amenity species such as laurel or conifers. Ornamental hedges around a house site will not suffice as a replacement hedge. New hedge must contain native species anything else wouldn’t be traditional to the area. A hedge or line of trees planted in front of another hedge or planting a line or grove of trees, is not considered a suitable replacement.
Failure to abide by these rules will result in a Cross Compliance penalty. Where it has been detected that a landscape feature has been removed/damaged in previous years, a sanction may be applied in the current year i.e. the year of the finding. In addition to the application of the sanction, a new hedge, line of trees or drain of equal length to the feature removed, must be planted or dug within twelve months. Otherwise a further cross compliance sanction will be applied.
EIA (Agriculture) Regulations 2011
Since 2011, farmers must apply to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for permission to remove hedges if the proposed newly created field will be over 5 hectares or if proposing to remove more than 500 metres.
EIA Summary Information Leaflet (PDF)
Hedgerow Best Practice
Best practice for biodiversity on all farms is to have a variety of hedge types. This includes some escaped hedges which remain un-topped but can be side–trimmed, and some topped hedges, trimmed to a triangular profile from a wide base, cutting the growing point, except to retain occasional trees including thorns at irregular intervals.
Read lots more here about Hedgerows