FARMERS have been encouraged to apply for a derogation if they wish to carry out hedge cutting in August and don't want to face delays.

Emma Smith, rural chartered surveyor with YoungsRPS, said current hedge cutting time restrictions mean some farmers may face issues when hoping to cut hedges prior to sowing oilseed rape or temporary grassland.

Current Cross Compliance rules impose a ban on cutting hedges from March 1 to August 31 in order to protect birdlife, but farmers who know they will want to cut hedges during August can apply to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) for a derogation.

Applicants must wait to receive written permission before carrying out any work or they will face the risk of incurring BPS penalties. However these applications can take weeks to process, so she urged farmers to get ahead and register to apply for a derogation as soon as possible.

She said: "Individuals can make applications by email to the RPA to break the prohibition with the subject marked as ‘Cross Compliance Derogation’. They should be made out stating your name, address, SBI number, the relevant field numbers and the reason for wanting to cut hedges early.

"To ensure that you are not liable to a Basic Payment Scheme penalty, it really is essential to emphasise that you must to wait for written permission before going ahead with any work. You will also have to obtain permission if you have a stewardship agreement which could be breached by cutting a hedge early.

"It is paramount to also remember that if you are granted a derogation you will only be able to cut the side of the hedge in the field parcel you have applied for."

Applications for derogations can also be made if it relates to overhanging hedges which obstruct a highway, road, or footpath over which there is a public or private right of way, or in the case that the hedge is a danger to users.

For further information, farmers should refer to the Cross Compliance Rules 2019, specifically the Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC) 7a Boundaries.