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Landscape Features

In 2009 the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food decided to designate hedgerows, ditches and open drains as Landscape Features under the Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) of Cross Compliance.  This designation means that all areas under these features are now eligible for payment under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) rules.

Hedgerows are an important visual feature in the landscape and form part of the historical and archaeological heritage of the country; they also serve a number of very important functions at farm level such as: 

  • Stock proof boundaries particularly important for animal disease control;
  • Shelter and shade for farm animals and shelter for crops from possible wind damage;
  • Physical barrier to restrict soil and water movement thus reducing soil erosion and protecting water quality;
  • Providing habitats for wild life in circumstances where the proportion of natural woodland in the country is low;
  • Nature corridors to allow the free movement of wildlife.

These landscape features are protected under the requirements of Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC). This means that in general they cannot be removed, damaged or interfered with. Hedgerows must also be maintained and not allowed to become invasive thereby reducing the utilisable area of the field and consequently impacting on the area eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme. Where, in exceptional circumstances, a hedgerow must be removed as for example to facilitate farmyard expansion, a replacement hedge of similar length must be planted at a suitable location on the holding in advance of the removal of the existing hedgerow. Where a Landscape Feature is required to be removed it must be replaced in advance like for like of similar length. For example you cannot replace a length of hedgerow with a line or grove of trees.

In regards to maintaining the hedgerow its height is not of concern but its width at the base must be maintained at a reasonable width. Where new saplings and or briars have established and are extending the base of the hedge, these must be controlled through normal hedgerow maintenance as otherwise they may result in a breach of GAEC rules. It should also be noted that hedgerow maintenance cannot be carried out during the closed period from 01 March to 31 August in any year as required under the Wildlife Act of 1976. With regard to drains, normal maintenance can be carried out as required. Drains under this designation cannot be piped and closed in. Where drains or hedgerows have been fenced such as to comply with REPS requirements, the area within the fence is now eligible for BPS.

In 2012 farmers who had been participants in REPS (Rural Environment Protection Scheme) had the option to have former REPS 3 or REPS 4 Option 4a habitats designated a Landscape Features.  The farmer could do this by declaring them as ‘Designated Habitats’ on their annual Single Payment Scheme (SPS) / Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application form.

In 2015 Archaeological Sites and Monuments were designated as Landscape Features and therefore protected and cannot be removed or interfered with.