‘Plastic eyesores are threat to precious wildlife living in ecological hotspots’

They suck up pollution, reduce the likelihood of flooding and are havens for our wildlife.

Yet a gradual destruction is taking place of one of Britain’s most important tools in the fight against climate change.

While the UK is one of the most hedge-dense countries in the world, with 311,000 miles of hedgerows compared with 247,000 miles of roads, these ecological hotspots are under threat thanks to a trend for plastic shrubs.

Countryfile presenter Julia Bradbury discovered several metres of “horrible” plastic hedge outside a new West London development while on a walk.

Alongside Springwatch hosts Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin, she is calling for them to be banned.

While they might look neat, tidy and are low maintenance, they are robbing bees, birds, butterflies and other insects of a place to live and of a vital food source.

Ecologist Rob Walton set himself a challenge to record the number of species which visited a hedge close to his home in Devon.

Over the space of two years he spotted 2,000 – far more than he expected.

“They are reservoirs of life,” he says.

“We’re so big, that when you walk past a hedge, you see very little. If you were an ant or something, you would see a vast array of life. It’s only when you look closely that you find all this stuff.”

There is also evidence of plastic run-off, tiny particles that disappear down drains, making their way into rivers, lakes and seas.

And artificial greenery can make flooding more likely as it cannot absorb water like real plants.

While planning policy requires that developments enhance the natural environment, there is currently no standardised regulation limiting the use of fake plants.