In a comment on an earlier post, someone asked me about the legal definition of a hedge. I thought it was worth putting my reply into a post.
It’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer, one that takes up a whole chapter of my book without a single definitive answer. Hedgeline (http://freespace.virgin.net/clare.h/) is a good source of information on the legalities of hedges – it was founded by Michael Jones (http://www.hedgeman.com/) following the case Stanton v Jones, in which the judge defined a hedge as:
“A number of woody plants, whether capable of growing into trees or not, which are so planted as to be in line and which, when mature, to be so integrated together as to form both a screen and a barrier”.
He also made the point that a hedge need not represent or constitute the precise line of a boundary because hedges might be planted away from a boundary.
To complicate matters, a recent DEFRA Hedgerow Survey Handbook gives an even more pedantic (and mildly conflicting) definition: “A hedgerow is defined as any boundary line of trees or shrubs over 20m long and less than 5m wide at the base, provided that at one time the trees or shrubs were more or less continuous. It includes an earth bank or wall only where such a feature occurs in association with a line of trees or shrubs. This includes ‘classic’ shrubby hedgerows, lines of trees, shrubby hedgerows with trees and very gappy hedgerows (where each shrubby section may be less than 20m long, but the gaps are less than 20m).”
So maybe we have to accept that there is no perfect definition…