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Potential reform to Branchage Law to protect wildlife

12 March 2019

The use of heavy machinery used in cutting hedges is killing species and destroying biodiversity, therefore campaigners have lobbied to have the law changed.

The current law was enacted in 1914, at a time when cutting could only be done by hand and agricultural practices were far less invasive. Nowadays, the use of machinery is impacting small animals like hedgehogs, birds and bats.

Campaigners are due to meet with the Environment Department and Constables' Committee on Wednesday 13 March to discuss reforming the law.

Current law
Any vegetation growth that overhangs roads and footpaths must be cut back, to make these areas safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

The person occupying the land must make sure:

  • there is a clearance of 12 feet over main roads and by-roads;
  • there is a clearance of 8 feet over footpaths; and
  • all trimmings from the road/footpath are cleared afterwards.

Under the law, the parishes are inspected twice a year and landowners face fines if they do not cut back vegetation which faces public land.

Proposed changes
The campaigners would like to introduce changes including:

  • a greater flexibility of branchage dates based on growing conditions and the hibernation habits of certain wildlife; and
  • for vegetation on the banques and hedgerows to be cut no less than 8 to 12 inches, allowing low-growing plants to recover.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of the meeting on Wednesday.

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