Managing Exmoor's Hedges

Traditionally laid hedges are a feature of the Exmoor landscape.

If you are receiving funding under the Single Payment Scheme, you are obliged to keep hedgerows in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC), in particular with reference to GAEC 14 and GAEC 15.

The ‘Exmoor Hedges’ leaflet, produced by the National Park Authority, in partnership with Defra and the Forestry Commission, provides useful information about hedge management and restoration. The leaflet covers a wide range of issues, including traditional hedge laying, coppicing, partial restoration, hedgerow trees, hedge planting, corn ditches and felling licenses.



Anyone wanting to restore their hedges, by laying or coppicing, should be aware that a felling licence may be needed.

If the amount of timber to be cut amounts to more than 5 cubic metres in any calendar quarter (or 2 cubic metres if it is to be sold on), an application should be made to the Forestry Commission. For hedgerows, this applies if stems to be cut are over 15 cm (6 inches) in diameter when measured at a height of about 1.3m (4 ft) from the top of the hedgebank.

An application is unlikely to be refused if the work constitutes sensible management, but up to 3 months should be allowed for the administration process. A licence will normally be unconditional, although when standard trees are to be felled they are likely to require replacing, which can be made a condition of the licence.

Who should I contact?

If you need to make a felling licence and live within the National Park boundary, the National Park Authority can assist you with this process by preparing the maps and forms for you.
Please contact Heather Harley, Conservation Advisor (Farming), on 01398 322277 or
For applicants living outside of the National Park, please contact the Forestry Commission


When you do not need a felling licence for cutting and laying  a hedge:

Location. You do not need a felling licence if your hedge is in:
• a garden
• an orchard
• a churchyard
• a designated open space (Commons Act 1899)

Type of Hedge Work. You do not need a licence to carry out:
• lopping 
• topping 
• pruning
• pollarding

Volume and Diameter. You do not need a licence if the volume of wood taken from your hedge is:
•  less than 5 cubic metres in a calendar quarter (Please note that you cannot sell more than 2 cubic metres in a calendar quarter)
• for trees that have the following diameters when measured 1.3 metres from the ground
o 8 cm or less 
o 10 cm or less for thinnings
o 15cm or less for cutting coppice

Other Permissions. You do not need a licence if you have a current permission under:
• an approved Dedication Scheme plan
• planning permission (granted under the Town and Country Planning Act)

Legal and Statutory Requirements You do not need a licence:
• for trees that are dangerous or cause a nuisance (seek advice from the Forestry Commission)
• to prevent the spread of a quarantine pest or disease in accordance with a notice served by a Forestry Commission Plant Health Officer  
• to comply with an Act of Parliament
• to undertake your duties as a statutory service provider (gas, water, electricity)


The Hedgerow Regulations 1997 were made under section 97 of the Environment Act 2005 and came into operation on 1 June 1997. The aim of the Regulations is to protect important hedgerows by controlling their removal through a notification system.

A Hedgerow protection system

The regulations affect hedgerows which are 20 metres or more in length, or if less than 20m in length meet another hedgerow at each end. (Gaps which are found within a hedgerow of less than 20m in length are to be counted as part of the hedgerow. Gaps are defined as ‘any opening whether or not it is filled’.) They relate to hedgerows which are on, or adjoining land used for: agriculture or forestry, the breeding or keeping of horses, ponies or donkeys, common land, village greens, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Local Nature Reserves.  

Garden hedges are not affected by the Regulations.

This prior notification procedure is to be used where a landowner, tenant or utility operator intends to remove a hedgerow. The Authority does not have to be notified:

·         if a small section of hedgerow is removed to make a new opening in substitution for an existing one which gives access to land

·         if a section of hedge is removed to obtain temporary access to any land in order to give assistance in an emergency

·         if a section of hedge is removed to obtain access to land where another means of access is not available or is available only at disproportional cost

·         if a hedgerow is removed for national defence purposes.

·         where development has been authorised by planning permission. (Hedgerow  removal in the course of works permitted under Schedule 2 to the Town and  Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order, other than Parts 11 and 30, is however subject to prior notification).

·         to carry out work, under certain Acts of Parliament, for the purposes of flood defence or land drainage

·         to prevent the spread of, or to ensure the eradication of a plant or tree pest

·         for work carried out by the Secretary of State in respect for any highway for which he is the highway authority.

·         in respect of felling, lopping or cutting back to prevent obstruction of, or interference with, electric lines and plant, or to prevent danger under the  Electricity Act 1989.

·         for the proper management of a hedgerow. (i.e. cutting back a hedgerow in a manner which does not result in its destruction)


A person is guilty of an offence if he:

·         intentionally or recklessly removes, or causes or permits another person to remove, a hedgerow, in contravention or regulation 5(1); or

·         intentionally or recklessly removes, or causes or permits another person to remove, a hedgerow which is the subject of a hedgerow retention notice, in contravention of regulation 5(9).

Any one found guilty of such an offence is liable on conviction to a fine of up to £5 000 in the Magistrates Court, or unlimited in the Crown Court.

For more information:

Natural England Hedgerow Regulations


Environmental Stewardship offers options for the management of boundaries. The Entry Level Scheme (ELS), Organic Entry Level Scheme (OELS) and Upland Entry Level Scheme (UELS) offer options to cut  hedges on either a two or three year rotation, with specific cutting dates and the minimum hedgerow height. The schemes encourage the establishment of new hedgerow trees. UELS offers points which can be earned for hedge laying and gapping up, as well as for earth bank and stone-facing restoration. The Higher Level Scheme (HLS) includes options for laying, coppicing and planting hedges and also for managing their hedges to benefit particular species like dormouse.The criteria for eligability is strictly targetted. Natural England has produced guidance for farmers and advisors in response to a number of points, which include the management of boundaries, in the 3rd edition ELS and OELS Handbooks.