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in Problem solving
i agree with christopher2, i had an identical hedge years ago and did exactly what he suggested to you, no harm came to the trees.
Yes, you can cut them back safely. It doesn't matter if you cut into brown wood when removing the central wood as long as there are some green shoots left on the outer edge to grow.
Hi I cut one myself without having any idea what I was doing.. I basically hacked at it. The tree was dead within weeks! I then paid a tree surgeon to do our long hedge, yes it cost £80, but 3 yeras on the trees are still there and forming a great thick hedge!