Saving housing estate hedgerows

ELF sees all sorts of enquiries from members of the public, each requiring their own individual response. A recent case involving concerns about the potential loss of a substantial length of hedgerow on a housing estate is illustrative of this variety.

One Friday we received an urgent request for assistance from a litigant in person who had received no legal advice up to that point.

He needed some guidance about how to apply for a judicial review renewal hearing. This had to be with the court by 4pm that day. We were able to give some very basic guidance to facilitate the enquiry and the renewal was duly made. However ELF had not been able to give any guidance regarding the substance of the claim and we were a little concerned.

The matter was in itself an interesting case of a social housing estate in Kirklees where, following a consultation with local residents and an unclear result, the local housing association had decided to remove 546 metres of hedgerow from around the estate.

The main reason for the removal was maintenance costs. The hedge was to be replaced with metal fencing. The results of the consultation was in  dispute and there was much bad feeling.

In between the renewal being made and the proposed resumption of the removal of the hedges, the local residents started to protest in earnest.

Following a morning protest which prevented the works beginning on the following Monday, a street meeting was held with senior managers of Kirklees Council, keen to avoid further trouble. Up to this point the local authority had not been involved.

Following this meeting, it was decided to suspend the works and offer a series of around-the-table consultation meetings between themselves and the local action group before any move to restart works to remove the hedges. This was a significant result for the local community.

ELF provided research to the enquirer on local planning policy regarding hedges and gave the wider health and wellbeing context – in fact Kirklees Council had produced a paper on the benefits of hedges over trees in their combating of air pollution. Whilst we did not think the Hedgerow Regulations were applicable, there was local guidance and we were able to supply all this to the enquirer for local dissemination and information for the forthcoming round of consultative meetings with local residents.

There are many local communities at the moment, fighting against hedge and tree removal, with costs being a justification by the body removing them. This is not a dissimilar fight to that taking place in Sheffield, where thousands of street trees have been removed to placate costs.

This maybe a small localised fight but none the less is of huge significance to the local residents.

It is just the sort of matter that ELF can assist with – for more information about getting help, see here.