Hedgerows both 'sexy and important', says DEFRA minister

DEFRA minister Victoria Prentis described hedgerows as "sexy and important" during a discussion about how the Church of England could be inspired to make better use of its land for biodiversity.

Prentis made the comments at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference about how nature-based solutions, namely hedgerows, can be used to halt the decline in the UK’s biodiversity. 

When asked what can be done to inspire large landowning organisations like the Church, who own the leases for a very large number of farms, to include hedgerows in their lease agreements, Prentis said that while she does think that hedgerows are very “sexy and important”, thinking should go wider than that, specifically with regards to church graveyards.

Crispin Truman, director of The Countryside Charity (CPRE), who was also on the panel, added that he had been recently speaking with the Church commissioners about a pilot project regarding hedgerows.

He added that England has lost 50% of its hedgerows since the second world war. 

However, after Conservative MP Siobhan Baillie spoke about the example of a project she had visited, which is looking to export a working model of how to farm in a biodiverse way, she added that it is important to acknowledge that “there is some nervousness about doing these things”. 

“Even our farmers are nervous about planting trees because they’ve seen these things come and go in the past and they’ve got tiny little wilting trees with tubes around them and they’ve had to spend money on them themselves” said Baillie. 

“I think the ability to prove a working model and give real guidance is really the key to give confidence for these changes.”