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5.6 Environmental regulations and permissions

Below are some of the legislation that relates to projects in an open green space. This list isnt exhaustive and is only meant as a guide to illustrate some of the things you may need to consider. Links to the legislation can be found at the bottom of the page. As with anything that relates to Regulations and Legalities you should contact your Local Authority Planning Department at an early stage of the project planning and they will be able to offer expert advice on any issues that may arise.

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Part I: Wildlife[edit]
Part I includes sections 1 to 27 of the Act. The legislation contained in these sections covers:

  • Protection of wild birds, their eggs and nests
  • Protection of other animals
  • Protection of plants
  • Miscellaneous
  • Introduction into the wild of species that are not native to Great Britain or are otherwise banned (Section 14): a list of affected animal and plant species was greatly expanded in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Variation of Schedule 9) (England and Wales) Order 2010
  • The import or export of endangered species.

Part II: Nature Conservation, Countryside & National Parks
Part II includes sections 28 to 52 of the Act. The legislation contained in these sections covers:

  • Nature conservation
    Sites of Special Scientific Interest
    Limestone pavements
    National nature reserves
    Marine nature reserves
  • Countryside
  • National parks

Part III: Public Rights of Way
Part III includes sections 53 to 66 of the Act. Building on the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 which required local authorities to draw up maps defining public rights of way.

  • Ascertainment of public rights of way
  • The duties of government bodies to identify, maintain and update records about Public Rights of Way and to keep maps showing rights of way under continuous review.
  • Updating and changing public rights of way
  • Updating may be required after the following:
    diversion of a highway
    extension of a highway
    widening of a highway
    stopping of a highway
    addition of a highway
    removal of a highway
    change in position of public path or traffic byway
    implementation of restrictions to public right of way
  • Rights of way are maintained at public expense.
  • An up to date map act as evidence that the public has right of way in relevant way (i.e. by foot on footpaths or on horseback on bridleways).
  • Changes of right of way requires a survey or review by the local surveying authority
  • Miscellaneous & Supplemental
  • Some responsibilities of owners of land crossed by a Public Right of Way
  • Regulation of traffic on Public Rights of Way

Part IV: Miscellaneous & General
Part IV includes sections 67 to 74 of the Act. The legislation contained in these sections covers:

  • Application of the Act to Crown land
  • Application of the Act to the Isles of Scilly
  • Offences by 'bodies corporate'
  • Financial provisions
  • Definitions
    "public path"- means a footpath or bridleway.
    "footpath"- allows the public to use highway on foot.
    "bridleway"- allows the public to use highway on foot, leading a horse or riding a horse.
    "byway open to all traffic"- allows public to use highway for vehicles, on foot, leading a horse or riding a horse
    "recognised dairy breed"- Ayrshire, British Friesian, British Holstein, Dairy Shorthorn, Guernsey, Jersey and Kerry.
    "relevant conservation body"- Natural England or Countryside Council for Wales

A Tree Preservation Order (TPO)

This is a part of town and country planning in the United Kingdom. A TPO is made by a Local Planning Authority (usually a local council) to protect specific trees or a particular area, group or woodland from deliberate damage and destruction. TPOs can prevent the felling, lopping, topping, uprooting or otherwise willful damaging of trees without the permission of the Local Planning Authority, although different TPOs have different degrees of protection.

They can be made very quickly and in practice it is normal for a council to make an emergency TPO in less than a day in cases of immediate danger to trees.

Certain exemptions apply including:

  • Approved by the Forestry Commision
  • Dead or dangerous trees
  • The maintenence of a public highway
  • Where planning permission has been obtained
  • Fruit trees cultivated for business purposes
  • To prevent or control a nuisance (legally proved)

The Hedgerows Regulations 1997

This legislation protects most countryside hedgerows from being removed (including being uprooted or otherwise destroyed). There are rules you have to follow to avoid breaking the law.

You must apply to the Local Plnning Authority to get authorisation to remove a hedgerow.

Hedgerows covered by regulations

A countryside hedgerow which is:

  • more than 20 metres long (or any part of such a length)
    less than 20 metres long, but meets another hedge at each end
    located on or next to:
  • land used for agriculture or forestry
  • land used for keeping horses, ponies or donkeys
  • common land
  • a village green
  • a site of special scientific interest
  • a local nature reserve
  • a public right of way

As we said at the start this isnt an exhaustive list and is only meant to give you an idea of how restrictive the legislation as it relates to open spaces can be. If this section illustrates one thing it should be the importance of contacting the Local Plnning Authority and getting authourisation before starting any work on your project.

Useful Links

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Tree Preservation Orders (TPO's)

Hedgerow Legsilation

Environmental Law - A guide