Homeowners asked to pause cutting garden hedges in France

The purpose is to avoid disruption during birds’ nesting period

Hedgerows are far more common in the north-west of France, in Brittany and Normandy in particular
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Homeowners have been asked to avoid cutting trees and hedges in their garden from this Friday (March 15) to avoid disrupting the nesting season of birds. In some cases, breaches can lead to steep fines.

The French wildlife protection agency, l’Office Francais de la Biodiversité (OFB) makes the recommendation each year to help prevent disruption to the nesting and reproduction cycle of birds between March 15 and July 31.

For most homeowners, this is only a recommendation and by no means exempts them from the obligation to clear land.

Read more: Can our neighbour in France force us to replace a hedge with a fence?

Potential fines

Under the European Union’s common agricultural policy, farmers can be fined for trimming hedges and trees between March 16 and August 15. Breaches can lead to steep fines of up to €150,000 and three years in prison.

While this total ban does not apply to homeowners, who are far more likely to be fined for having an overgrown garden that creates a fire risk, there are cases when the OFB’s advice not to trim hedges can be backed up by a fine.

When endangered or threatened species are concerned, the OFB can advise the department or the region to issue special protection orders to prevent the destruction of habitats.

This happened in April 2019 when the SNCF contracted a company to clear hedgerows alongside a railway at Écouflant (Maine-et-Loire).

Five wildlife associations alerted the OFB to the hedge trimming, who then ordered the SNCF’s subcontractor to stop on the grounds that it was destroying the habitat of several threatened species of birds: the Eurasian blackcap, the great tit and the Eurasian wren.

The SNCF subcontractor was later fined €30,000 and required to pay €10,000 in damages to the associations that raised the complaint.

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