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Extra protection for hedgerows has been proposed after a review of the existing system.
A group of experts made up of nominees of Government Departments, the statutory agencies, local government, utility companies and the main farming and conservation bodies are examining:
clearer criteria for the landscape, historic and wildlife importance of hedgerows.
that the time for planning authorities to consider hedgerow removal notices be increased from 6 to 8 weeks.
further brief research before these proposals are incorporated in fresh Regulations.
The 1993 survey of hedgerows showed that between 1984 and 1993, 68,000 kilometres of hedgerow were grubbed out from the countryside of England and Wales.
The Environment Minister Michael Meacher said: "The Hedgerows Regulations 1997 were a first step in reversing the decline. The review group's proposals could protect more, ensuring that valuable hedgerows are not left unprotected. Our next step is to commission research to give us a better idea of how many more hedges the proposed criteria would be likely to cover.
"We expect to publish revised draft Regulations for statutory consultation after the research into the group's proposed criteria defining important hedgerows has been completed and evaluated."
The group also recommend that, in the longer term, further consideration be given to altering the Environment Act 1995 so that local authorities - rather than Ministers - can determine which hedgerows in their area are important.
This would secure protection for hedgerows which may be cherished locally for reasons too varied to be included in any nationally devised criteria, such as the particular contribution they make to the local landscape.
The review group was asked to look at ways of strengthening the Hedgerows Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/1160). Approved by Parliament on 20 March 1997, the Regulations came into effect on 1 June of that year.
They aim to protect important hedgerows in the countryside by controlling their removal through a system of prior notification. Anyone removing a hedgerow illegally may face an unlimited fine. They may also have to replace the hedgerow.
July 2, 1998