The Department of Agriculture is planning a national hedgerows audit for all farmers. The Farming Independent understands the audit will be carried out by satellite and will seek to identify if and where hedgerows may have been removed in recent years.
Details of the planned national audit were given to farm organisations at a recent meeting of the Farmers Charter group, which monitors Department schemes and payments.
Since 2011, farmers must apply to the Department of Agriculture for permission to remove hedges if the proposed newly created field will be over 5ha or if they are proposing to remove more than 500 metres.
Currently, where hedgerow removal has occurred in breach of the regulations, reinstatement or mitigation works will be required and enforced and prosecution may occur.
However, under Ireland’s new CAP Strategic Plan, which comes into force in January, there will be a requirement to plant a hedgerow in advance of twice the length of the hedgerow being removed.
The new measure is designed to discourage the removal of hedgerows as established hedges have a greater value in terms of providing wildlife habitats, biodiversity and carbon sequestration relative to those that are newly established.