Since 1 June 2005, provided you have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving a hedge dispute, you will be able to take your complaint about a neighbour's evergreen hedge to the Council.
The role of the Council is not to mediate or negotiate between the complainant and the hedge owner but to decide on whether - in the words of the Act - the hedge is adversely affecting the complainant's reasonable enjoyment of their property. In doing so, the Council must take account of all relevant factors and must strike a balance between the competing interests of the complainant and hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.
If the Council consider the circumstances justify it, the Council will issue a formal notice to the hedge owner 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.
- 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 the Council, it does not follow automatically we will order your neighbour to reduce the height of their hedge. We 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.
Below is some information on what the Anti-Social Behaviour Act covers in relation to high hedges, what complaints the Council's can consider and when.
What is a 'high hedge'?
For the purposes of the Act a high hedge is a line or two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs that rise to a height of more than two metres above ground level that form a barrier to light or access.
When considering whether a particular hedge is covered by the Act the following is a guide:
- Does the hedge act, to some degree, as a barrier to light or access - even though it might have gaps in it?
- Are there two or more trees or shrubs in it and are these roughly in line?
- Is the hedge comprised wholly or predominantly of evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs? and
- Is it over 2 metres high? answer to all these questions is 'yes' then it is a 'high hedge'
- A complaint cannot be made under the Act about single trees or shrubs, whatever their size.
- The two or more trees or shrubs so not have to form a single line. As long as they are roughly in line. It is unlikely, therefore, that the definition will cover groups of trees, copses or small woodlands - unless they have a row of trees bounding them.
- Evergreens do not include climbing plants such as ivy.
- Semi-evergreen normally means that the hedge retains some live foliage throughout the year. Beech and hornbeam are excluded, as although they may retain some foliage for most of the year, this is brown and dead.
- The 2 metre height should be measured from the ground where the hedge is growing.
- The hedge must to some extent act as a barrier to light or access. This means not just a bar to physical access but also access to a view or outlook.
- Hedge roots are specifically excluded and are not a part of a 'high hedge'.
Who can complain to the Council?
- Owner or occupier of the affected domestic property - the legislation does not apply to owners/occupiers of an affected commercial property.
- Affected properties where there is a landlord and a tenant, each is entitled to complain.
- A person does not have to have lived at the property for a set period of time before they can make a complaint. Even if the hedge was there when someone moved into the property, they are still entitled to complain.
- However, they would have to have some experience of the adverse effects of the high hedge and have taken steps to try and resolve the problem with their neighbour.
- An owner of an empty property can complain if, for example, they are unable to sell the property because of the high hedge
There is a fee payable to the Council if you make a formal complaint. The fee is currently £448 and relates to the costs to the Council of carrying out the formal investigation and any formal action in relation to your complaint. (This fee is reduced to £107.00 for people in receipt of 100% Council Tax Support).
There are two leaflets that provide additional information about high hedges that can be downloaded below.
You can also contact the Council's Customer Service Centre on 01923 776611 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org