Within the Parks & Trees team, we are responsible for taking care of over 28km of the UK’s hedgerows for the benefit of wildlife and people alike. Hedges play a valuable role in parks, open spaces, residential areas and along roadsides and country lanes.
You may have noticed that the way in which the hedges are being cut in your area are changing. This is largely for 2 reasons:
Wherever possible we are looking to improve habitat for wildlife by relaxing our cutting regimes, see ‘Benefits of Hedgerows’. We have a legal responsibility to protect and encourage biodiversity and our annual surveys tell us that people want to see more wildlife in our parks.
We have had to make significant financial savings to work within our budget. This has left us with fewer staff to maintain our green spaces. In order to meet this challenge, we have reduced the frequency of hedge cutting to benefit wildlife and to direct our limited resources to areas of greater priority.
After a survey of each and every hedge we are pleased to report that we now have: 1.8km of hedgerow cut only once every 2 years and 3km of hedgerow cut only once every 3 years.
Benefits of hedgerows
Hedgerows provide an invaluable habitat for wildlife:
- They create ‘green highways’ for small mammals, bats and invertebrates to navigate through our busy cities and towns.
- They provide shelter for birds and invertebrates and hibernation sites for mammals such as hedgehogs; a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan
- They produce food for pollinators and a variety of wildlife in the form of nectar, pollen and fruit
- They also provide a living boundary between properties, one that is not only longer lasting than most artificial alternatives but potentially cheaper and using fewer harmful chemicals in the production. All whilst providing colour, fruits and flowers through the seasons, plus easier access for small mammals.
- Finally hedges are important for absorbing both air and noise pollution creating healthier, cleaner and more peaceful places to live and work.
However for hedges and their inhabitants to thrive alongside us we need to take care of them and respect their inherent value.
We are committed to maintaining our hedges so that they may:
- Complement our parks and open spaces, avoid causing an obstruction to public footpaths or highways and preserve clear sightlines along roads
- Wherever possible we will maintain hedges in a way that supports wildlife, protects our environment and promotes cleaner air quality
- We are not responsible for vegetation overhanging public footpaths and highways if it is overhanging from private land – this is the responsibility of the landowner. However we will intervene to address this if it is causing an obstruction, for more information or to report overhanging vegetation click here
- While we would love to be able to cut your side of our hedge, unfortunately we don’t have the resources to do this
How you can help
Creating greener communities requires us all to help out. Choose to plant a hedge in your own garden and in time it could come to replace any existing fences or walls. See ‘Benefits of Hedgerows’ to find out more.
If you’ve spotted a hedge that is being cut too frequently and you think it would appreciate the freedom to grow then let us know! Find out first if it is council managed and check our cutting frequencies – it may be that it is on a 3-year rotation already.
Doing nothing at all can be a great help to nature, why not allow your own garden to grow a little wild? But of course always remember to keep hedges and shrubs clear from public footpaths and highways.
Maintenance of Hedgerows
Frequency of hedge cutting
Best practice guidance from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as well as the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) recommends against annual cutting. Instead hedges are cut on rotation, ideally every 3 years or longer to increase berry crop, nectar and habitat for wildlife.
Therefore in line with our values and commitment to protecting our environment we will aim for this frequency wherever possible.
The following are exceptions to this:
- Areas around signs and other street furniture will be cut back more frequently
- Where the growth of a hedge may present a safety concern, for example, obscuring traffic sight lines or footpaths; these will usually be cut once a year but may be cut up to twice a year.
- We will respect our neighbours and aim to work with residents who are living adjacent to hedgerows when determining the ultimate height and frequency of cut.
- Some hedgerow species don’t lend themselves well to relaxed cutting, for example, privet, willow and dogwood are fast growing. Depending on their location, these may be cut more frequently; once or twice per year.
We will also aim to cut larger hedges in stages where these hedges are not cut annually. This may mean we cut each side and top in different years. This is in line with best practice guidance as recommended by DEFRA as it has the least detrimental impact on wildlife.
Time of year for hedge cutting
Hedges that are tractor-flailed will only be cut from September to February, excepting a safety concern. This is because the bird nesting season is from 1st March to 31st August and it is against the law to disturb the site of any nesting bird under Section 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981). The vast majority of hand-cut hedges are also cut outside of this time for the same reason.
DEFRA best practice guidance recommends that hedges are cut over January to February. This provides much needed shelter and berries for wildlife for as long as possible during the autumn and harsh winter months. Therefore we will endeavor to keep to this wherever possible.
The following are exceptions to this:
- Those hedges that are cut twice per year will be cut in Jan-Feb and again in Sept-Oct (if tractor-flailed) or July/Aug (if hand-cut)
- Some may be cut outside of these months if there is a safety concern or a path/road is obstructed
- Due to the quantity of hedgerows we maintain it may not be feasible to cut all of them in Jan-Feb and some may be cut outside of this time
- Occasionally hedges may be cut in autumn if there is a concern that the surrounding ground will be too wet for our tractor to gain access
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. There is an overgrown hedge that is… obstructing a path or reducing visibility along a road or at a junction, when will this be cut?
A. If there is a safety concern then please let us know about it right away. If it is council owned, we can then inspect it and send one of our teams along to cut the hedge if necessary. If it is privately owned we can contact the owner.
If there is no immediate concern then please do have a look at our hedge cutting schedules which you can find here. You may find it is scheduled for a cut soon or that it is not council owned.
Q. I live next to a hedge which is causing an issue for me, what can I do?
A. We want to protect our environment and respect wildlife therefore we won’t remove or significantly reduce the height of a hedge without good reason.
However, we understand that council managed hedgerows that are bordering our neighbours can be contentious issues so we will endeavor to maintain the height of our hedges in a way that is responsible and in line with our current resources and cutting schedules.
Please get in touch if you wish to discuss one of our hedges. You will find our contact details here.
Q. I want to find out when a hedge will be cut, how do I do this?
Q. Why are some council managed hedges no longer being cut every year?
Please read the sections ‘Benefits of hedgerows’ and ‘Frequency of hedge cutting’.
Q. Only one side of a hedge has been cut and the rest has been left. Why is this?
A. There are two possible reasons for this. The first is that different teams may be responsible for cutting different sides, for example one side may be flailed by a tractor whereas the other may be hand cut due to lack of access for tractor. In this case teams may simply reach the hedge at different times.
The second reason is that it is deliberate to ensure that not all sides of a hedge are cut at the same time. Cutting a hedge in stages reduces the impact on wildlife.
Contact Us & Further Information
Find out our hedge cutting regimes here: check when a hedge will next be cut and find out which hedges are council managed
Didn’t find what you were looking for? Contact Council Connect.