A guide to removing a garden hedge, including what the job entails and how much you should expect to pay.
Here, we’ll look at how to remove a hedge from an area of land and return it to a flat, grassed over condition. It will also look at the many legal aspects that surround hedges and look at what constitutes a protected hedge. Protected hedges may not be removed without consulting either the local council planning departments or National Government advisors.
That will depend upon the length and depth of the hedge and whether you hire an excavator. The removal of a small hedge (2 to 4 metres) could cost between £100 and £250 including waste removal, and larger hedges can cost around £250 to £400. To hire an excavator will typically cost between £50-£120 per day.
Hedge removal is usually a larger job than most other horticultural tasks. It will require a significant amount of digging to a suitable depth, depending upon how large and established the hedge is. You will need a shovel, spade, fork, and a shepherd’s bar or other large crowbar devices, and but may also require the use of a mechanical digger to ensure that all the root material is removed. The job will also entail filling any trough or burrow remaining with either new or the removed soil and possibly even laying turf, depending upon how the ground needs to be finished.
Removing a hedge will mean digging down to remove the roots. This will ideally need a mechanical excavator, and that will add high cost to the process. You will also have to consider the disposal of the material that you remove. Most of the soil will be replaced in the hole that you create by removing roots, so most of the disposal will be of root and vegetable matter. This is likely to be too much material for a regular council waste disposal facility and may need specialist disposal. Ideally, the root material should be “chipped” before disposal. To remove a large hedge, you will probably have to hire in equipment such as a small excavator and a wood chipping system or find contractors who have such equipment and are available for hire.
In many cases, hedges are subject to protection orders and interfering with them can put you on the wrong side of the law. The rules covering countryside hedgerows are relatively specific, and you need to follow when removing such designated hedgerows. You can get a fine up to £5,000 if you don’t follow these rules. If your case is transferred to the Crown Court, you could get an unlimited penalty.
Generally, a countryside hedgerow is a boundary line of bushes which can include trees as well. A hedgerow is safeguarded, meaning you can’t remove it or otherwise interfere with it, if it meets the specific criteria for length, location, or importance as a feature. For the length criteria, a hedgerow is protected if it’s more than 20m long with gaps of 20m or less in its length, or less than 20m long, but connects with another hedge at each end. For the location criteria, a hedgerow is protected if it’s on or next to:
A hedgerow isn’t protected if it’s in or indicates the border of a private garden.
The ‘importance’ aspect includes if the hedge is at least 30 years old and meets at least one of these criteria:
All of these aspects are rigorously enforceable, and you must not interfere with a hedge that falls under one of the criteria. Make sure that you thoroughly investigate the background to your hedge before trying to remove it.
If you are removing a hedge, you have the perfect opportunity to completely clear the area up and flatten the ground to make it suitable for any use. You can also use the removal of a hedge as a means of generally carrying out weed removal and sanitizing the ground.
Here is a list of commonly asked questions regarding removing a hedge.
Contact your local council giving details of the hedge and its exact location, giving as much detail about the hedge as possible to get a swift decision. Copies of Tree Preservation Orders are available for inspection at the Planning Department's offices during office hours. Before you purchase a property, your solicitor should make a land charges search, which should reveal the existence of a protected hedge or whether your property is in a Conservation Area. Make sure you query your solicitor if any hedges are protected.
Regarding the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it’s against the law to disturb nesting birds. You are advised to avoid carrying out work during the period of nesting, usually between March 1st and September 30th. If you feel that the work must be done during the nesting season you are advised to employ an ecologist to survey the hedge and advise on the presence of nests.
No, not without presenting a ‘Hedgerow Removal Notice’ first to your local Borough Council. The local council will then have 42 days after the receiving of a correctly constituted Hedgerow Removal Notice to deliberate the request and make suggestions.
You could be directed to plant another hedgerow and be compelled by legal authority to make sure this happens. The newly planted replacement hedgerow will automatically become 'important' for 30 years after it has been planted.