Guernsey Press

DPA is taken to task over hedge removal requirement

VITAL bird habitats in Guernsey will not be adequately protected under proposed new planning laws, according to an environmental campaign group.

Pollinator Project co-director Louise Gabriel. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30277411)

The Development & Planning Authority is overhauling its list of what types of development work can go ahead without having to apply for planning permission. These are set to be debated in the States next week.

One of the new additions to this list is the removal of a hedge or part of a hedge, as long as it is replaced by new planting of native species within two months. Other stipulations mean that the work must not alter an existing vehicle access or create a new one, must not allow encroachment into neighbouring land and must not be done during nesting season, from 1 March to 31 July.

‘The DPA doesn’t seem to have considered that hedges are a food source in their timing recommendations for hedge replacement,’ Pollinator Project co-director Louise Gabriel said.

‘It’s good that the DPA has thought about birds nesting, which is great, but what about autumn, when birds rely on berries to get through the winter and when one of the only food sources for pollinators is a flowering ivy hedge?

‘The proposal should include the best time to replace a hedge – December to February.’

Ms Gabriel applauded the DPA for including the term ‘native species’ in the proposed legislation but said the document would be improved by the inclusion of a list of allowable trees.

‘This may hopefully stop the bad habit of property developers putting in the cheapest non-native hedge that has almost no use to wildlife,’ she said.

Another concern was the apparent green light for property owners to do away with old hedges.

‘Does the DPA mean it’s OK to remove a dead hedge or one people just don’t like the look of – one that could be brilliant for wildlife,’ Ms Gabriel said.

‘The proposal also doesn’t say people have to replace the hedge with one of the same size. As hedges have twice the carbon sequestration properties of trees due to their shape, we could lose carbon sequestration properties for years if we lose many big hedges and they are replaced with tiddly plants that take years to grow.’

‘Hedges get better over time. They start off being a man-made thing and grow into a natural mini ecosystem.

‘We’d never advocate the removal of an old, tangled hedge,’ she said.

The Pollinator Project applauded the DPA’s proposals to save resources and cut red tape, she said, but this should never be at the expense of the environment.

The group has suggested an alternative wording that it would like to see considered when States members debate the DPA’s proposals.

‘A dead hedge within domestic curtilage that is deemed no longer useful to wildlife by the DPA/approved environmental agent can be replaced by a Guernsey native species of the same size, from the DPA approved list, that has been grown with pesticide-free, peat-free methods,’ it says.