Thousands of miles of hedgerows could be damaged or lost after their protection is weakened under post-Brexit farm subsidies, the RSPB has warned.
Hedges are vital habitats for many threatened bird, mammal and insect species. The charity that guards birds said that the weakening could prevent the government meeting its legally binding commitment to halt the decline in species in England by 2030. Farmers are currently required to protect hedges to receive “basic payments” per acre made to almost all farms under the EU’s common agricultural policy.
Under the new system, farmers in England can apply for a “sustainable farming incentive” that includes provisions to protect hedges. Only 70 per cent of farms, however, are expected to sign contracts to receive the funds.