Habitat Action Plans
Ancient and species-rich hedgerows
Ancient hedgerows tend to be those which support the greatest diversity of plants and animals, and are defined legally in the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 as being those which were in existence before the Enclosure Acts, and specifically before 1875. Species rich hedgerows are generally taken to be those which contain five or more native woody species in an average 30 metre length. Hedges, which contain fewer woody species but have a rich ground flora of herbaceous plants, are also included, as are recently planted species rich hedges. Where hedges are associated with a green lane, ditch, bank or verge, these features are also considered to form part of the hedgerow.
Hedges vary enormously around the country; they generally consist of a line of shrubs, sometimes with trees and usually with a layer of herbaceous vegetation beneath. The field margin is that area at the edge of a cultivated field; it provides a transitional or "buffer zone" between the crop and the hedge or field boundary, as well as being of value to wildlife itself.
Hedgerows are important habitats for at least 47 species of conservation concern, including 13 globally threatened or rapidly declining species. Associated UK BAP species are bullfinch, linnet, reed bunting, tree sparrow and turtle dove. Hedgerows are especially important for butterflies and moths, the smaller farmland birds and dormice, while hedgerow trees are an important habitat for the larger birds and bats and dead wood invertebrates. They also act as wildlife corridors for many species, including reptiles and amphibians, allowing dispersal between habitats.
There are estimated to be 450,000 km of hedgerows in the UK, of which 190,000 km is ancient or species rich. The main areas are the south west of England, south Wales and Northern Ireland. Between 1984 and 1990 22% of hedgerows were lost in the UK, today this loss has slowed but is estimated to run at 1.7% per year by removal and 3.4% per year by neglect.
The Yorkshire and Humber region is estimated to have around 37,400 km of Ancient and / or species rich hedgerows (Selman, Dodd and Bayes, 1999).
In Calderdale Hedgerows are more abundant in the east of the district, in the Coal Measures Natural Area, with drystone walls being more common towards the west, in the Southern Pennines. Hedges have often been engulfed by the growth of urban areas and can be found within pockets of encapsulated countryside. Survey work is essential to determine the extent, quality and distribution of hedges within the district.
Current factors causing loss or decline
- Agricultural improvement, mineral working, road improvements and general development.
- Loss of Hedgerow trees through old age and felling usually without any replacements being planted.
- Inappropriate management, especially cutting at the wrong time and lack of management so they change into a line of trees with gaps in between.
- Stock pressure and lack of management, allowing higher grazing pressure on the hedge and hedge bottoms so hedges become open and bare at the base.
- Hedges are rarely layered or gapped up as wire is used to make the hedges stock proof.
- Countryside Stewardship can enable hedgerows to be managed, restored and planted.
- The Hedgerow Regulations came into effect on the 1 June 1997. These Regulations introduced a system whereby it is illegal to destroy hedgerows which fall within the scope of the Regulations without first notifying the local authority of the intent to do so. Having received such a notification the local authority must assess the hedgerow against a number of historic, ecological and landscape criteria and, if the hedgerow satisfies one or more of these criteria, the local authority can serve a Hedgerow Retention Notice. The Hedgerow Regulations are currently being reviewed.
- Article 10 of the European Community Habitats Directive requires member states to encourage the management of hedges in their land use planning and development policies with a view to improving the ecological coherence of the Natura 2000 network. This is reflected in the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc,) Regulations 1994, which recognises that linear features are essential for the migration, dispersal and genetic exchange of wild species. PPG9 (Nature Conservation 1994) further encourages the development of polices for the management of hedgerows.
- The Forestry Act 1967 requires a landowner to have a Felling Licence from the Forestry Commission before felling more than a given volume of trees of a specified size. Licences may be refused or issued with conditions, and it is a criminal offence to exceed the felling limits without a licence. Tree Preservation Orders operated by the local authority have a similar effect. However, while these measures can protect the trees in a hedgerow, they cannot protect the hedge itself.
- Planning permissions frequently contain conditions requiring the retention or planting of hedgerows. For example, the restoration of mineral workings can bring benefits for wildlife and the landscape, through the establishment of new tree and shrub planting.
Priority species associated with this habitat
Pipistrelle Bat, Dunnock, Linnet, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Intermediate Enchanters Nightshade, Sherad's Downy-rose.
- Ensure all species rich and / or ancient hedgerows are maintained in an ecologically favourable condition
- Plant 10 km of new species-rich hedgerows by 2010.
|1. Policy and Legislation||Lead Partner||Other partners|
|Ensure that UDP policies are in place to protect ancient and species rich hedgerows||CMBC (DP)||CMBC (CAFU)|
|Consider the impact on ancient and species rich hedgerows when assessing planning applications||CMBC (DP)||CMBC (CAFU)|
|Enforce Hedgerow Regulations 1997||CMBC (DP)||CMBC (CAFU), EN|
|Ensure that the best examples of hedgerows are designated as SEGIs||WYE||CMBC (CAFU), CMBC (DP)|
|Take opportunities through the planning system to restore or create hedgerows. Explore long term management agreements||CMBC (DC)||CMBC (CAFU)|
|2. Site safeguard and management||Lead Partner||Other partners|
|Improve hedgerow and field margin management||FWAG||DEFRA, NFU, CLA|
|Promote the conservation management of hedgerows across farm holdings through the promotion of Whole Farm Plans||FWAG||RSPB, NFU, CLA, DEFRA, EN, CMBC (CAFU)|
|Encourage the planting of hedges with native species of local provenance||NFU||CMBC, FWAG, DEFRA|
|Encourage the planting and retention of native standard trees in hedgerows||FWAG||NFU, CMBC (CAFU)|
|3. Research and monitoring||Lead Partner||Other partners|
|Carry out survey work and involve local groups in monitoring hedgerows. Ensure that surveys are all carried out with the same methodology||HSS||WYE CMBC (CAFU)|
|Maintain sites database||WYE||CMBC (CAFU), HSS|
|4. Advisory||Lead Partner||Other partners|
|Disseminate information on best management practice and the importance of such areas to owner / occupiers and developers (leaflets)||EN||FWAG, RSPB, CMBC (CAFU), CMBC (DC)|
|Arrange training courses in hedge-laying, management||CMBC (CAFU)||BTCV, FWAG|
|5. Regional||Lead Partner||Other partners|
|Develop a demonstration area to show best management practice al/Regional)||FWAG||NFU, CLA, DEFRA, RSPB|
|6. Communication and publicity||Lead Partner||Other partners|
|Promote an awareness amongst the public and land managers of the importance of hedgerows and their associated features and for the need for appropriate management||FWAG||ATC, CMBC (CAFU)|
|Publicise sources of advice and grant aid for hedgerow management, including Countryside Stewardship||FWAG||CMBC|
|Key to abbreviations|
|ATC||Alternative Technology Centre|
|BTCV||British Trust for Conservation Volunteers|
|CLA||County Landowners and Business Association|
|CMBC||Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council|
|CMBC (CAFU)||Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Countryside and Forestry Unit)|
|CMBC (DC)||Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Development Control)|
|CMBC (DP)||Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Development and Policy)|
|DEFRA||Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs|
|FWAG||Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group|
|HSS||Halifax Scientific Society|
|NFU||National Farmers Union|
|RSPB||Royal Society for the Protection of Birds|
|WYE||West Yorkshire Ecology|
Plan Coordinator: Hugh Firman, Conservation Officer