CPRE, the countryside charity, has campaigned for hedgerow protection since the 1970s. The UK’s hedgerow network is its largest nature reserve, yet it has halved in size over the last eight decades because of changes in farming practices and development, among other things.
After the Climate Change Committee recommended in its Net Zero report that the hedgerow network should be increased by 40% by 2050, CPRE launched its “40by50” campaign in July 2021 to encourage the government to adopt this target.
The charity adopted 40by50 as its next “hero campaign”, meaning it would be prioritised across the entire organisation and should also feed into the charity’s wider corporate objectives.
The integrated campaign plan involved research reports, farmer surveys and engagement, media activity, petitions, site visits, parliamentary events, planting projects and more. The campaign focused on the positive benefits that greater hedgerow coverage would have on the environment, the rural economy, and local communities, with lobbying targeted at both Defra and the Treasury.
Simultaneously, each local CPRE was tasked with laying out what they could do to raise awareness of hedgerows and influence the government to agree to meet the target.
The campaign garnered support from the public and more than 80 cross-party politicians, with CPRE’s hedgerow petition attracting nearly 50,000 signatures.
Eighteen months later, the government announced the introduction of the first-ever hedgerow target in its Environmental Improvement Plan, to create or restore 30,000 miles of hedgerows by 2037 and 45,000 miles by 2050.
It also almost doubled the farm subsidy payment to incentivise farmers to engage in hedgerow restoration.
And it created a new post within the civil service dedicated specifically to hedgerows.
A few weeks before the announcement of the target, Trudy Harrison, minister for the natural environment, said: “Hedgerows are absolutely fantastic, as I saw for myself here in parliament at the hedgerow showcase of CPRE, the countryside charity. As we treble tree planting across this country, I will ensure that we do everything possible to put hedge planting and protection at the forefront of our priorities.”
Charity Awards judge Chris Sherwood said: “I liked not only the shift from protection to restoration of nature, but also the ask around farm subsidy payments – that was a really tangible win, because it is a key part of the farming system and it will incentivise behaviour.”
Judge Martin Edwards said: “In terms of what they set out to achieve, it was stunningly successful. And we should recognise how spectacularly difficult it is in the current climate of chronic government deficits to achieve a campaign that involves significant government investment over a long period of time.”
CC Reg no. 1089685