A mature Wealden hedgerow near Uckfield, ripped out by the landowner, does not need to be replaced, according to a Government inspector
The decision to allow an appeal, following the removal of 30 trees, has been met with huge disappointment by Wealden District Council who have said it "sends the wrong signal to developers"
The Conservative-run council argued the 50-metre long hedgerow, on land in Coopers Green Road, was removed in contravention of planning regulations and served a Hedgerow Replacement Notice on the landowners calling for it to be reinstated. A Government planning inspector has now allowed the landowners appeal and quashed the Hedgerow Replacement Notice.
The Whitehall official said that, while regulations state the removal of any hedgerow is prohibited, the appellants maintain the hedgerow has not been removed because the roots remain and are showing signs of re-growth - although much of this appears to be of bramble along with hawthorn and hazel on around two-dozen stumps which survived the culling.
The inspector said that appropriate hedgerow management techniques, such as coppicing, may constitute an exemption of the regulations and this suggests that the majority of the plants have survived, albeit in a suppressed fashion.
However, in a glimmer of hope for our green and pleasant land, the inspector added that, if it transpires the hedgerow does not regrow as anticipated (and shading causes further losses) it could reasonably be concluded that the appellants’ hedgerow management actions, whatever their intention, have ultimately led to its demise and hence its removal.
The inspector said, “Were this to occur then a new HRN might be justified but at the current time I find that this is not the case and that the works are beyond the scope of the regulations.”
Leading councillor dismayed
The decision has been met with dismay by Wealden's portfolio holder for planning, Conservative Ann Newton, who said "We are deeply disappointed at this decision. The fact we had to wait two and a half years for an inspection clearly had an effect as the damaged hedge was showing some signs of regrowth.
“We issued the notice to show that we will not tolerate perfectly healthy trees and hedgerows being removed. The inspector’s decision to allow the appeal is therefore particularly disappointing.
“It flies in the face of what we as a council try to do in terms of protecting species and safeguarded the environment. Moreover, it sends the wrong signals to landowners who might be contemplating pre- planning application felling works to trees and hedges.”