There are particular laws concerning hedge cutting that you need to be mindful of to ensure no active bird nests are damaged.
Hedge Cutting & The Law
The law protects some mature hedges, but this would not apply to garden hedges. During the breeding season for the nesting birds that typically lasts between March and August every year, it is advisable to avoid hedge cutting.
It may depend on the weather conditions, and some birds can nest outside of this period. Therefore, it is crucial to look for the active nests before cutting carefully.
Under section one of the wildlife and the countryside Act of 1981, it is offensive to intentionally take, destroy, or damage the nest of all wild birds, use or build, or intentionally injure, kill, or take adults or chicks.
Resource: Hedges, the Law, rules and regulations
Also, it is offensive to destroy or take any egg intentionally. For instance, it is the intentional act if your neighbour or you know an active nest in a hedge and cut the hedge, destroy, or damage the nest or the contents.
If someone cuts the hedge during this time, talk to him and respectfully mention the danger to bird nests and nest protection laws.
If he continues and you know the active nest is in danger, contact the police at 101 and ask for the reference number. And If you are not sure what to do, you can contact the RSPB Wildlife Inquiries on 01767 693690.
Also read: Can You Trim Hedges in Summer?
Note: The police are responsible for enforcing these laws, and the RSPB does not enforce the laws in these cases. If necessary, we can inform the police.
Disagreements with the neighbours are typically related to the hedge’s cleanliness and size, and cutting of the hedge, especially in the breeding period. The boundary hedge is a shared responsibility of the two neighbours. The two of you must agree on the primary job, including removing, laying, or coppicing.
In theory, you require the neighbours’ agreement before you even trim the hedge. If the fence is inside the garden of your neighbours, it belongs to them. You are only allowed to trim a part that creeps over the boundary limit. Your neighbour must ask for permission to cut the hedge of your property.
Regardless of the owner, no one should trim a hedge if the activity damages active nesting birds and therefore violate Wildlife and Countryside Act. Typically, if tall trees or hedges put the garden in the shade, you can trim any branches that overhang your boundary.
Also, you can cut roots that are invading the property, even if they are harmful to the plant. You are not allowed to trim vegetation on the neighbours’ property or destroy plants with herbicides.