Complaints about High Hedges
From 1 June 2005, provided you have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving your dispute with your neighbour regarding an evergreen hedge which is over two metres in height, you can complain to the Borough Council.
The Borough Council’s 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 Act, the hedge is adversely affecting your reasonable enjoyment of your property. In doing so, the Borough Council must take account of 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 the Council consider the circumstances justify it a formal notice to the hedge owner will be issued, which will set out what they must do to the hedge to remedy the problem, and when by. Failure to carry out the works required by the authority is an offence which, on prosecution, could lead to a fine of up to £1,000.
For Your Information
- The legislation does not require all hedges to be cut down to a height of two metres.
- You do not have to get permission to grow a hedge above two metres.
- When a hedge grows over two metres the Council does not automatically take action - a justifiable complaint has to be made.
- If you complain to the Council, it does not automatically follow that your neighbour will be ordered to reduce the height of their hedge. All the issues have to be weighed up and each case considered on its own merits.
- The legislation does not cover single or deciduous trees.
- The Council 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.
If you are troubled by a neighbouring hedge, the best way to deal with the issue is to discuss it amicably and to agree a solution with your neighbour. For this reason, the law requires people to have taken reasonable steps to try to settle their hedge dispute for themselves before complaining to the local Council.
Advice on negotiating in respect of hedges can be found in the leaflet “Over the garden hedge” produced by Communities and Local Government.
If you have been trying for a long time to resolve your concerns or if you do not get on with your neighbour mediation might be the answer. Community mediation is particularly effective in this type of dispute. It involves an independent and impartial person (the mediator) helping those in dispute to work together to reach a settlement. The mediator's job is not to make a decision. Instead, they help the people concerned to understand each other's point of view - dealing with how they feel about the situation as well as the facts - without apportioning blame. From there, the participants can move forward to think about how they could put matters right and to agree a plan of action. If mediation is to work, people must go into it willingly.
Local mediation services are available through:
- The National Mediation Helpline www.nationalmediationhelpline.com/index.php,
- The Association of Midlands Mediators (www.ammediators.co.uk)
- The Bridge Mediation Service,
Bridge Housing Advice Centre,
38, Leicester Road,
Tel No. 01509 260500
The Bridge Housing Advice Centre
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr J C Rosenthal Humberstone House, Humberstone Gate, Leicester. (tel No. 0116 2414316)
Other Sources of Help and Advice
- Community Legal Service are available through local libraries or on the Legal Aid page of the Gov.uk website. Their website describes, and has links to, other sources of help and advice.
- Some firms of solicitors offer a set amount of initial free advice, either by email, over the telephone or through personal interview.
Some membership organisations, such as the Country Land and Business Association or Saga, are also able to provide members with advice on legal issues.
- Citizens Advice Bureaux at www.adviceguide.org.uk
- Communities and Local Government has produced advice such as “Over the garden hedge” and “High Hedges: complaining to the Council” which are available on the Communities and Local Government website.
Why Should I Have to Pay the Council to Consider My Complaint?
The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 states that complainant’s must pay a fee to the Council when they submit their hedge complaint. Central government state that 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.”
A fee of £350.00 has been set by Charnwood Borough Council and this should accompany every complaint that is submitted. If a complaint is received without payment it will be returned and no further action will be taken on it. The charge has been assessed to ensure the cost of the work involved in providing the service is met and the set fee will be reassessed after six months have lapsed.
The Director of Development has discretion to accept a reduced fee of £50.00 if you (the complainant) can clearly show in writing that you are in receipt of either Income Support, Pension Credit, Job Seekers Allowance (income based), Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit.
The Director of Development has discretion to accept a single fee of £350.00 if complaints from neighbouring properties regarding the same hedge are received together. Separate forms will however have to be completed by each individual otherwise an appeal by any party, made against the Borough Council decision, will not be accepted by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Minister for Communities and Local Government.
No refunds will be made by the Borough Council except at the discretion of the Director of Development and unless the matter is resolved and the Council is informed in writing by the complainant prior to any administrative work being carried out by the Borough Council.
- High Hedges Complaint Form (PDF Document, 0.23 Mb)
Removal of Hedgerows & ‘Hedgerow Regulations 1997’
Hedgerows are protected by the Hedgerows Regulations 1997. Under the Regulations, it is against the law to remove or destroy certain hedgerows without permission from the local planning authority. Permission is required before removing hedges that are at least 20 metres in length, over 30 years old and are either of historic importance or wildlife value as defined under the Regulations.
More detailed guidance is contained in The Hedgerows Regulations 1997: A Guide to the Law and Good Practice, which can be viewed at the Office of Public Sector Information Website
Guidance and information to tree owners on the protection of trees and how to get consent from their local authority to fell or prune a protected tree is available from ‘Protected Trees: A Guide to Tree Preservation Procedures’, which can be found on the Communities and Local Government Website.
Last updated: Mon 31st March, 2014 @ 15:41