Cllr Hart confirmed that DCC monitored hedge cutting, following my written question, submitted in advance of DCC’s annual council meeting last Thursday (23 May).
National guidance recommends that landowners cut hedges back in January and February only, to ensure the following:
– reducing the chance of disturbance to breeding birds, nesting birds and other species, such as bats and dormice, which are given legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
– most plants will have finished flowering and seeding
– it allows the availability of berries and nuts for feeding birds and other wildlife for as long as possible during the winter
– it is likely that there will be less traffic on the roads, reducing congestion and delays
Hedgerow removal is an offence without notifying the local planning authority (East Devon District Council), as per the Hedgerow Regulations Act, which controls the removal of hedgerows through a system of notification.
My written question was simply asking what the hedgerow cutting policy was. The written answer distributed at the annual council meeting on Thursday, set out the guidance, after which I was allowed one supplementary question, which related to what monitoring took place, which I asked after outlining the serious problems affecting our wildlife.
Cllr Hart gave quite a long answer and although he confirmed that monitoring takes place, I intend to follow up to check how this works.
Following last week’s news on the dramatic decline in wildlife and habitat, I see this as a really important issue for councils.
Interestingly and coincidentally, there was a national news story over the weekend about how often councils cut their grass verges. Countryfile, aired last night, broadcast an interview with a Devon County Council highways officer, who confirmed that the council operated good practice by leaving a section of grass verge to grow unhindered, to allow wildflowers to flourish.
The DCC annual council meeting was webcast so you can view the answer to this question – and my first question and its answer – which asked the leader to explain why he had appointed two conservative chairs of scrutiny, breaking with many years of tradition, as it is good practice for councillors not in the ruling party to chair scrutiny committees.
Cllr Hart was not happy with this question, it seemed, from his answer.
East Devon District Council has had a conservative chair of scrutiny since 2010, I believe.
The webcast is below and is expected to be ready for viewing in the next day or two. You can click on the time next to the names on the “timeline” section on the right hand side of the screen to see the precise part of the meeting that you are interested in.
Photograph: A beautiful East Devon hedgerow last weekend, with stitchwort, red campion and bluebells – important for many insects, including bees and butterflies.