There are numerous rules and pieces of legislation that protect hedges. These are explained in Devon hedges: the law and other protection.
The main provisions are:
The Hedgerows Regulations. These are designed to secure effective protection for hedges of significant historic, wildlife or landscape value. All hedges more than 20 metres long on land used for agriculture, forestry or grazing horses are covered: garden hedges and those on golf courses are excluded.
Cross compliance. Farmers claiming the Basic Payment Scheme must follow certain rules known as cross compliance. These require them to follow the provisions of The Hedgerows Regulations, not to cultivate or apply fertilisers or pesticides within 2m of the centre of a hedge, and not to cut or trim hedges between 1 March and 31 August inclusive unless the work is necessary to permit adequate access or visibility along roads and other public rights of way.
Protected species. Many species that occur in hedges in Devon are protected by law. This includes all wild birds , their nests, eggs and chicks, although a few species may be hunted or controlled by certain methods, usually outside a defined closed season. For this reason management work should not normally be carried during the bird breeding season which is usually taken as 1 March to 31 August (though some species, including the specially protected cirl bunting, a south Devon speciality, can still have young in the nest into September).
Specially protected animals and plants include Plymouth pear cirl bunting, all bats and hazel dormouse. Dormice and bats, along with the great-crested newt, are protected under The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.
For legal requirements affecting hedges alongside roads, see the leaflet Roadside hedge and tree management.
Devon Wildlife Trust have good guidance for communities and individuals wanting to respond to planning applications on wildlife grounds