Remove hedgerows, stone walls and ditches at your peril

Failure to comply with hedgerow rules, including replacing them when they are removed, will result in cross compliance penalties, according to Teagasc.

Prior to removing a hedgerows, stone walls and ditch on their farms, farmers need to consider the consequences,  Teagasc advisors Christy Byrne and Tim Hyde say.

They say the first consideration farmers should take account of is its potential impact on the Single Farm Payment. Hedgerows and drains/ditches have been designated as landscape features under the rules of Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition. This means that it is not necessary to make deductions to parcel areas to account for these features, but they must be retained.

The advisors outline that where it is necessary to remove a hedgerow or fill in a drain for good reasons such as farmyard expansion, the applicants may do so provided a new hedgerow or drain of equal length is planted or dug in advance of the removal of the old hedgerow or drain on the applicants holding.

Hedgerow species must be traditional to the area. Failure to abide by these rules will result in a Cross Compliance penalty. In addition a new hedgerow or drain/ditch of equal length to the feature removed, must be planted or dug within 12 months. Otherwise a further cross compliance penalty will be applied.

  • Landscape features were designated in 2009. If removed in 2009, a penalty will not apply as the Terms and Conditions did not foresee the change. If removed in 2008 or earlier there is no penalty.
  • The penalties are graded based on length removed.
  • Once a penalty is applied, a farmer has 12 months to replace the hedge. If not replaced within the 12 months an intent penalty must apply as the applicant knows what he has to do. Intent means 20% penalty or greater depending on the extent of the problem.
  • The penalty does not differ whether the hedge was removed in 2013 or 2010 The range of penalty in the first year: 1, 3 or 5% on SPS, DAS, REPS or AEOS, Grassland Sheep Scheme (all direct payments)
  • Range of penalty if the further penalty applies where the hedge is not replaced after the initial penalty: Starting at 20%.
  • The use of the Bing mapping system from 2011 makes it easy to identify the presence of hedgerows in 2011, with subsequent hedgerow removal being more likely to be identified.
  • Burning of waste hedgerow material requires prior consent from the environment section of the local authority
  • Removal of hedgerows and trees cannot be done between the 1st March and the 31st August.

The second consideration according to Byrne and Hyde is under Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations

This applies to all farmers and where farmers are carrying out work on farm that exceeds the thresholds below they must apply and get approval from the DAFM before work commences. The Regulations apply to three different types of on-farm activities.

1. Restructuring of rural land holdings – The activities affected are as follows: -ring of rural land holdings:

  • Removal of lengths of field boundaries
  • Re-contouring of land

2. Commencing to use uncultivated land or semi-natural areas for intensive agriculture
3. Land drainage works on lands used for agriculture including drainage works on lands used for agriculture When do I need to apply for screening?

  • If the proposed activity exceeds the thresholds outlined above;
  • If you have doubts that any works that you propose to carry outmay be subject to the requirements of the Regulations, you should apply to DAFM for screening. For further information, consult your agricultural adviser or DAFM (LoCall 1890 200 509).