High hedge disputes
A "high hedge" is defined in the Act as a barrier to light or access as is formed wholly or predominately by a line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs and rises to a height of more than 2 metres above ground level.
Cypresses, such as the infamous “Leylandii” are included, as well as other evergreens, such as Yew, Laurel and Privet.
However, the Act will only offer control over hedges that affect domestic properties, which are defined as a dwelling or any associated garden or yard. Individual trees (even those which have multiple trunks) and shrubs will be outside the scope of the legislation.
Once you have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving your dispute with your neighbour, you may consider reporting the issue to us.
Submitting a complaint to the Council should be a last resort. Before doing so, we highly recommend that you read the Government’s guidance.
How do I report an issue?
You can report an issue by submitting a detailed form with supporting evidence and other documentation.
Submitting a report does however mean you will be required to pay a fee of £500.
You must also provide the owner of the hedge with a hard copy of the complaints form, along with all accompanying plans, documents, correspondence and photographs.
We recommended that you keep a copy of your complaint form and all accompanying documentation for your own reference purposes.
Why do I have to pay to report an issue?
The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 states that individuals must pay a fee to the Council when they submit their hedge complaint. Central government believe there are several reasons why they think this is fair and reasonable:
- "Most people who responded to questions about fees in the 1999 consultation 'High hedges - possible solutions' thought it was fair that the complainant should pay something for the local authority to intervene in their hedge dispute.
- Payment of a fee will encourage people to try to settle these disputes amicably, making sure that involvement of the local authority really is a last resort. A fee will also help to deter frivolous or vexatious complaints
- It is common practice for local authorities to charge a fee for a service which is likely to benefit an individual (in this case, the complainant) rather than the community in general"
What action can the Council take?
Our role, which has been set by central government, is not to mediate or negotiate between you (the complainant) and the hedge owner, but to adjudicate on whether, in the words of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, "the hedge is adversely affecting your reasonable enjoyment of your property".
In doing so, we must take into account all relevant factors and must strike a balance between the competing interests of you and the hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.
If we consider the circumstances justify it, a formal notice to the hedge owner will be issued. This will set out what they must do to the hedge to remedy the problem and when they need to do this by.
Failure to carry out the works we require is an offence which, on prosecution, could lead to a fine of up to £1,000.
Can I cut branches overhanging my property boundary?
Yes. As long as you know where your actual boundary is.
Fences, hedges and ditches often mark the legal boundary between properties but these boundaries do not always follow an obvious line on the ground.
In cases where you are in dispute with your neighbour, you would be wise to take legal and arboricultural advice before cutting any vegetation.
It is also important to discuss any proposed works with your neighbour before you carry them out.
Only branches overhanging your boundary can be cut and they must be cut in a way that will not compromise the health or structural stability of the trees or shrubs.
You must offer the cuttings to your neighbour, although they are not obliged to take them, remove them or pay for their removal.
Should my neighbour pay for the removal of overhanging branches?
No. The responsibility for the cost of trimming branches back to your boundary is yours.
However, it will probably be cheaper than expensive litigation.
What about agricultural hedges? Can I remove a hedge in my field?
No, not without submitting a ‘Hedgerow Removal Notice’ to us first.
Such hedges are covered by the Hedgerow Regulations 1997.
We have 42 days after the receipt of a properly constituted Hedgerow Removal Notice to consider the notification and decide whether or not to serve a Hedgerow Retention Notice in response.
Why can't I report an issue with deciduous trees and hedges to the Council?
Government decided to restrict the legislation to evergreen hedges because of evidence that they were a widespread problem. Both the problem and possible solutions were the subject of public consultation. The results indicated overwhelming support for new laws to deal with evergreen hedges, including the majority of local authorities who replied. Government mandate, and commitment, to legislative action is, therefore, to take action in respect of evergreen hedges only.
The consultation revealed no general appetite for legislation to deal with all problem hedges. It must be said that Government have no comparable evidence that deciduous hedges are a general problem.