Shropshire’s historic hedgerows under threat

Update: Application withdrawn on 17 January 2013

There are almost unprecedented plans to plough out 7 miles of hedgerow near Chirbury. If proposals like this are nodded through, large areas of Shropshire could soon become barren wastelands, denuded of beauty and biodiversity.

Deadline: 17 January 2013. You can object here: planningpa.shropshire.gov.uk/online-applications. Just type 12/05237/HRM into the search box to bring up the application.

chirbury hedges
Location of Marrington Farm

Shropshire is a county that greatly benefits from the character and richness of its landscape. Our farmed landscape is important not only to the agricultural industry. It is a major tourist attraction and contributes to the quality of life of the county’s residents. Our fields, hedges and woods are a haven for wildlife and vital reservoir of biodiversity.

Heather next to some of the 7 miles of threatened hedgerow
Liberal Democrat councillor Heather Kidd at the hedgerows

Hedgerows are a critical component of this landscape. They are visually attractive. They provide wildlife havens and corridors. They are an integral part of the county’s history and heritage.

Over decades hedgerows have been grubbed out, trashing the attractiveness of the landscape. Their removal has too often eliminated the intimate connection between landscapes and history, ploughed out biodiversity, and impoverished the quality of soil. Despite government support for hedgerow protection in recent years, hedgerows remain one of most threatened elements of the English landscape.

The applicant states that the hedgerows have no heritage or wildlife importance. I dispute both of these assertions.


The hedgerows to be removed are in red

Giving the timing of this application, submitted a just three working days before Christmas, it has not been possible for me to examine the antiquity of the hedges. Nevertheless, as a former archaeologist it is apparent to me that they are remnants of an inclosure landscape dating to the early nineteenth century, if not before. They form part of an intricate mosaic of fields that give this part of the Marches its quintessential character.

The hedgerows have certainly been neglected, but that does to mean that close inspection will to reveal that they are rich in plant species and capable of supporting abundant biodiversity.

The scale of this application – seven miles of hedgerow – is staggering. The owners have stated their ambitions to create a mega-dairy (Farmers Weekly, 23 July 2010). They are not the only farmers to have such ambitions. If this application is allowed, it will set a precedent for large-scale bulldozing of hedgerows from Shropshire’s landscape.

I believe there are sufficient grounds under Regulation 4 of the Hedgerow Regulations (1997) for rejecting this application. I have asked Shropshire Council to do, and I hope that you can do the same. Our beautiful landscape in under threat!

The original deadline for objections was 3 January 2013, but the council has extended this to 17 January.

12/05237/HRM | Removal of hedgerows | Marrington Farm, Chirbury, Montgomery Shropshire SY15 6DR.

  Marrington Field name map 2

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9 comments

  1. After I contacted Shropshire Council about the short timescale for objections over a holiday period, the council replied: “The deadline for this one has been extended by 14 days on account of the great number of objections we have received over recent days.” The new deadline is 17 January. Please object if you can.

  2. Andrew Sceats · ·

    Being a member of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and someone who cares for the protection of wildlife generally in the UK and abroad I have emailed Shropshire Council to object to the massacre of the Chirbury hedgerows and their associated fauna.
    As well as being possibly a precedent for destruction throughout the County and elsewhere in the UK if this application is successful how can we preach to foreign countries about the destruction of their habitats when we can’t even protect our own rare resources.

  3. 11 January: Excellent BBC Midlands Today report on the Chirbury hedgerows with Shropshire Lib Dem Heather Kidd and Woodland Trust http://bbc.in/13pmtY1 at 15mins

    1. Andy,
      Thanks for your alert about the Midlands Today report on the Chirbury hedgerows application. I am sure it was good but unable to source this report via the address you posted or the BBC website.
      WSPA has helped campaign against dairy super farms which has bben successful. Apparently the applicants in these other cases are friends of farmer Jones and he has been dismayed that they have been thwarted.Hopefully, his friends in turn will be dismayed if his hedgerows plan is turned down.

      1. Turns out the BBC only keeps Midlands today on iplayer for 2 days!

      2. Many thanks for that.
        I received an email from the Shropshire Planning Officer responsible for the application and he has been overwhelmed by public comments.
        Is this sort of application suitable for being called in by the planning minister if it is approved at county level bearing in mind the importance/ precedence of the case which is an exploitation of existing planning laws?

      3. As far as I am aware, there is no provision for call in in the Hedgerow Regulations 1997.

  4. I have lodged an additional objection to this proposal:

    There are reports in the local press (for example: http://bit.ly/US1isd) of the 2 January meeting at Chirbury Hall. Frazer Jones, who bought the farm last year, said: “The fields at the moment are too small for my machinery. My intention is not to remove the entire hedge, but it was easier to make the application to remove all of it and then work out what I need to do. I also will not remove any trees.”

    This means that he is really seeking blanket approval to remove hedges as and when he wishes during the next two years. So he is not actually making a proposal for hedgerow removal as required by Section 5(1)a of The Hedgerows Regulations 1997, he is seeking to remove legal protection from hedgerows so that he might remove them if that suits his purposes. This alone ought to be reason to reject the proposal as, in my view, it is not permitted under the regulations.

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