If you have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving a hedge dispute, you can make a complaint about a neighbour's evergreen hedge to us.
Preventing hedge problems
To help people resolve hedge disputes amicably, read Over the Garden Hedge, a leaflet on how to settle your hedge differences without involving the local authority.
To prevent problems occurring in the first place, The Right Hedge for You sets out alternatives to fast-growing species such as Leylandii and describes the upkeep necessary to make an attractive, healthy hedge.
What complaints are considered
Complaining to the council should always be the last resort. You should have tried to solve the hedge problem by negotiation with your neighbour before approaching the council. Otherwise the complaint could be rejected.
If you cannot settle your hedge dispute you will be able to take your complaint to the council provided that:
- the hedge in question comprised wholly or predominantly of a line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs
- it is over 2 metres high
- the hedge acts, to some degree, as a barrier to light or access
- because of its height, it adversely affects your reasonable enjoyment of your domestic property (that is your home or garden).
How the council will deal with the complaint
The council charges a fee for considering a high hedges complaint.
The legislation does not specify the precise procedures that the council must follow in determining complaints but the council should take into account all relevant factors and assess each case on its merits.
The council will therefore need to gather information about the hedge, its effect on the complainant and hedge owner, and its contribution to the wider amenity of the area.
In each case the council will decide, in the first place, whether the height is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of your property, including the garden. If so, the council will then consider what, if any, action should be taken in relation to the hedge in order to remedy the adverse effect and to prevent it recurring.
If the Council decide that action should be taken to resolve the complaint, they will issue a formal notice to the person responsible for the hedge, setting out what must be done and by when. This will be known as a remedial notice.
This may well include long-term maintenance of the height of the hedge at a lower height, but could not involve reducing the height of the hedge below 2 metres, or its removal. Although the Council cannot require such action, the hedge-owner would be free to go further than the remedial notice requires.
Both hedge owners and complainants will be able to appeal against the council's decision. They must do so within 28 days starting from the date that the council notifies the parties of its decision. The remedial notice would be suspended while the appeal is being determined.
Failure to comply with the requirements of a remedial notice would be an offence. If convicted in a magistrates court, the hedge-owner could be fined up to £1,000. In addition to or in place of a fine the court might then issue an order for the offender to carry out the required work within a set period of time.
Failure to comply with the court order would be another offence, liable to a £1,000 fine. At this point, the court would also be able to set a daily fine for every day that the work continued to remain outstanding.
If the works set out in the remedial notice is not carried out the council will have powers to do the work specified, recovering its costs from the hedge owner. But there is no requirement or obligation on the council to intervene in this way.
Facts about high hedge legislation
- the legislation does not require all hedges to be cut down to a height of 2 metres
- you do not have to get permission to grow a hedge above 2 metres
- when a hedge grows over 2 metres the local authority does not automatically take action, unless a justifiable complaint is made.
If you complain to your local authority, it does not follow automatically that they will order your neighbour to reduce the height of their hedge. They have to weigh up all the issues and consider each case on its merits:
- the legislation does not cover single or deciduous trees
- the local authority cannot require the hedge to be removed
- the legislation does not guarantee access to uninterrupted light
- there is no provision to serve an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO) in respect of high hedge complaints.