Hedgerows - Habitat Action Plan 

Ref 1/H5 Habitat Action Plan 5
Plan Author: Norfolk County Council (Gerry Barnes)
Plan Co-ordinator: Farmland BAP Topic Group
Plan Leader: Norfolk County Council
Version 1 31 December 1998
Version 2 January 2006
Version 3 November 2009

Action Plan Summary

Current Status

National Status

  • The 2007 Countryside Survey found that there are 547,000km of woody linear features in England (click here for survey results). Of this total, it is estimated that approximately 525,000km meet the BAP definition as given above.

Norfolk Status

  • Norfolk is a particularly good area for hedges because of the rich diversity of its landscapes, both man-made and natural. It contains a wide variety of soil types, ranging from acid sands and gravels, through rich loams and alluvium, to heavy clay. It lies astride the conventional boundary between the 'planned' and the 'ancient' countryside: in the west of the county, field patterns were largely created by planned post-medieval enclosure, but in the south and east, they have much earlier origins. Moreover, although the county suffered badly from the intensification of agriculture in the second half of the twentieth century, in most districts substantial numbers of hedges still remain.
  • It has been calculated that, in 1973, Norfolk had about 16,500km of hedge, roughly 4km per km2 (Farmland Tree Survey, NCC).

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Current factors causing loss or decline of the habitat in Norfolk

  • The perceived increases in farm efficiencies facilitated by hedgerow removal are still a factor in hedgerow loss.
  • Degradation of hedgerow flora and fauna by drifted and even deliberate applications of agri-chemicals is a major but unquantified factor.
  • Ill-timed cutting affects breeding birds and winter food supplies for birds and other wildlife, and annual cutting limits flowering and fruiting, also affecting food supplies for a wide range of wildlife.
  • Arable cultivation too close to hedges and more efficient field drainage are probably major factors in the declining hedgerow and hedgerow tree quality.
  • Climate change.
  • The difficulty of establishing new hedges on banks, in Norfolk's drought prone springs. Rabbits and deer can also create problems with hedges.
  • Loss to development.
  • Use of inappropriate species and genotypes.
  • Elm disease and premature die-back of other tree species (particularly oak, eg, from Acute Oak Decline and Sudden Oak Death) have caused significant losses of mature trees. (Regular trimming preserves elm as a hedged species where it was previously hedge or has regenerated from suckers from failed mature trees.)

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Current Action in Norfolk

  • The Hedgerows Regulations 1997 require landowners to consult District Councils prior to removing a hedge.
  • Cross-compliance under the Single Payment Scheme underpins the Hedgerow Regulations and requires hedgerow cutting to be avoided between 1 March and 31 July except for roadside hedges. Farmers are also required not to cultivate or apply fertilisers, manures or pesticides within 2m of the centre of a hedgerow on fields over 2ha.
  • Defra's agri-environment schemes provide incentives for hedgerow management. Funding through HLS is available for hedge planting and restoration where hedges are a feature of the landscape, while ELS offers incentives for on-going maintenance.
  • Norfolk County Council provides comprehensive advice and grants, currently at 40% up to a maximum of &pound3,200 (total cost &pound8,000) for hedge planting and gapping up. This programme has been developed over the past 30 years.
  • Norfolk FWAG provides comprehensive independent advice on farmland conservation, including sources of grants.
  • Landowners are obliged to seek a felling licence for hedgerow trees from the Forestry Commission.
  • A survey of the hedges in over 200 parishes was undertaken between 1995 and 2003, in a joint project between Norfolk County Council and the School of History at UEA.

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Action Plan Objectives and Targets


  • Maintain the net extent of hedgerows across the UK.
  • Maintain the overall number of individual, isolated hedgerow trees and the net number of isolated veteran trees.
  • Ensure that between 2005 and 2010 hedgerows remain, on average, at least as rich in native woody species.
  • Achieve favourable condition of 243,000 km (35%) of hedgerows by 2010 and 348,000 km (50%) by 2015. (Target does not include Northern Ireland.)
  • Reverse the unfavourable condition of over-managed hedgerows across the UK by reducing the proportion of land managers who trim most of their hedgerows annually to 60% by 2010 (applicable to England only).
  • Halt further decline in the condition of herbaceous hedgerow flora in Great Britain by 2010 (and improve their condition by 2015). (Target does not include Northern Ireland.)
  • Improve the condition of the hedgerow tree population by increasing numbers of young trees (1-4 years) in Great Britain to 40,000 by 2010 and 80,000 by 2015. (Target does not include Northern Ireland.)
  • Achieve a net increase in the length of hedgerows of an average of 800 km per year in Great Britain to 2010 and 2015 (Target does include Northern Ireland.)


  • Reduce the loss of hedgerows through removal to a negligible proportion of the resource.
  • In parts of the county where trees in the hedgerow are a charismatic and traditional feature, ensure the establishment of replacement hedgerow trees.
  • Re-create 100 new hedgerow pollards per year, from young trees where these are a characteristic or traditional feature of the landscape.
  • Ensure all roadside hedgerows associated with Roadside Nature Reserves (RNRs) are in favourable management by 2012.
  • Establish 60km of new hedgerows per annum from 2009-2014.
  • Plant 1km per year of new Scots pine hedges in the Brecks.
  • Ensure willow pollards are maintained with no net loss on the roads and the broads and fens where they are a characteristic feature.

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