Closed petition Revise the NPPF to include the protection of all and particularly old hedgerows.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) guides local authorities in relation to planning decisions. The NPPF has a glaring omission; the word ‘hedge’ does not exist anywhere in the document, and consequently hedges are the first casualty of greenfield site or 'garden grabbing' developments.

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Following campaigns from the Woodland Trust & other charities the NPPF was amended to state “development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused.” Hedges and hedgerows – especially old ones - must be considered in the NPPF and given the same protection as ancient and veteran trees or ancient woodland. Ancient hedges are invaluable habitats for birds, mammals and invertebrates. We must protect them!

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Government responded

This response was given on 24 September 2020

Mature hedgerows are vital for wildlife and create beauty and heritage in the landscape, so we protect them through the Hedgerows Regulations as well as planning policy on conserving nature.

Mature hedgerows are vital for wildlife and create beauty and heritage in the landscape, so we protect them by law as well as through national planning policy on protecting and enhancing all important features of the natural environment.

Legal protection for hedgerows is provided by the Hedgerows Regulations 1997. These regulations prohibit the removal of most or parts of countryside hedgerows without first seeking approval from the local authority, which is required to decide whether a hedgerow is important because of its wildlife, landscape, historical (more than 30 years old) or archaeological value and as such should not be removed. The full detailed criteria are set out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in its guidance at https://www.gov.uk/countryside-hedgerows-regulation-and-management

In the planning context, the National Planning Policy Framework also provides protections that can be applied to hedgerows. The Framework is national planning policy to which local authority plan-makers and decision-makers must have regard whenever relevant. It makes clear that, to allow local authorities properly to plan the location, type and layout of future development, their local plans should identify, map and safeguard components of local wildlife-rich habitats and wider ecological networks. In this they should include the hierarchy of international, national and locally designated sites of importance for biodiversity; wildlife corridors and stepping-stones that connect them; and areas identified by national and local partnerships for habitat management, enhancement, restoration or creation. Chapter 15 of the Framework asks local authorities not only to minimise the impacts of development on biodiversity, but also to secure its enhancement and a measurable net gain for biodiversity when considering whether to grant planning permissions. All these provisions in national planning policy enable local authorities to provide for the retention and enhancement of specific hedgerows.

When granting planning permission, a local authority has the power to impose enforceable planning conditions on a developer in order to protect hedges or trees assessed as being worthy of retention, which might otherwise be harmed by construction or the new land-use. Local authorities should also consider whether a proposed development would harm the amenity, character and heritage aspects of the site, its surroundings and the wider environment. The Environment Bill currently before Parliament will make it mandatory to secure net gains for biodiversity after certain forms of development.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government