Farmers reminded of illegal hedgerow removal consequences

Farmers have been warned of the consequences involved in the illegal removal of hedgerows following the close of the hedge-cutting season last Thursday, February 28.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, has issued a strong reminder to farmers and advisors that hedgerows, trees in a line and drains/ditches are designated as landscape features under Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC).

Under GAEC 7 beneficiaries are obliged to retain and maintain designated landscape features, the minister said.

Landscape features under Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) 7 were designated in 2009 and include:
  • Hedgerows including gappy hedgerows;
  • Trees in a line;
  • Drains and ditches; and
  • Combinations of hedge, drain and area within fence.

Landscape features are eligible for payments under the Basic Payment Scheme and other area-based schemes.

In addition, field boundaries such as hedgerows, stone walls and clay banks are afforded protection under the Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) Regulations (EIA) S.I. 456 of 2011 (as amended by S.I. No. 142 of 2013 and S.I. No. 407 of 2017).

Any proposed land restructuring works may require screening and approval by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under the EIA regulations.

Where hedgerow removal has been deemed to have occurred in breach of EIA screening requirements:
  • Land will be subject to inspection by department officials;
  • Reinstatement and / or mitigation works will be required and enforced and prosecution may occur;
  • Works carried out will be reported to relevant divisions within the department including the Basic Payment Scheme.