INCREASING the country’s hedgrows by 40 per cent could create 25,000 jobs according to the CPRE (the Campaign to Protect Rural England).

The organisation says that for every £1 invested in hedgerows, as much as £3.92 is generated for the wider economy, with extra jobs in planting and maintenance in both rural and urban areas.

The CPRE has called on the Government to increase its hedgerow network by 40 per cent by 2050.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of the charity, said: “It is almost impossible to define the enormous value of our hedgerow network – just as our arteries and veins supply our bodies with nutrients and oxygen, the UK’s hedgerow network defines many of our rural landscapes and must remain healthy to benefit villages, towns and cities.

“Our research shows that investing in our hedgerows is a win-win for climate and people in both the countryside and urban areas.

“Sadly, half of our precious hedgerows have been ripped from the landscape since the Second World War and we’ve seen a huge decline in nature and soaring carbon emissions.

“There is a lot of work to do. Local authorities can support community groups to plant more hedgerows while farmers can help by letting hedgerows grow taller and bushier.”

“But we know the Government has the biggest part to play in unleashing the full potential of hedgerows.

“That’s why we’re calling on ministers to set a target to increase the hedgerow network by 40% by 2050, with improved protection for existing hedgerows.”

He said this would be seen as a “bold step” in tackling climate emergency, as they help soak up carbon and protect against flooding.

One in nine of all vulnerable species in the UK are associated with hedgerows, including the hedgehog and hazel dormouse.

Tony Juniper, chairman of Natural England, said: “We have the opportunity to transform the way the countryside looks and sounds, which includes more hedgerows, as well as improving the ones we have already.

“We are working to ensure that the new farming policy makes the best possible contribution toward the creation of the Nature Recovery Network that is set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan and hedgerows are very much a part of that.

“These wonderful features create natural corridors, provide essential habitats for wildlife, catch and store carbon and bring benefits for the rural economy.”

A Defra spokeswoman said: “Hedgerows are an important ecological building block in our landscapes, maintaining the distinctive character of our countryside, improving local air quality and providing crucial habitats for wildlife.

“Our landmark plans for a renewed agricultural sector will enable us to reward the work farmers do to manage every metre of hedgerows on their holdings sustainably and in a way that is right for their area.”