The Benefits and Problems of High Hedges
A good hedge has many benefits as a garden boundary. A hedge is a useful weather and dust filter, is inexpensive to create and long-lasting, can encourage wildlife and can be a feature of beauty and interest in its own right. It also offers privacy and security.
From 1 June 2005, provided they have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving their hedge dispute, people will be able to take their complaint about a neighbour's evergreen hedge to their local authority (Harborough District Council).
High Hedges are dealt with under Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003. The law giving local Councils powers to deal with complaints about high hedges is contained in Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 ("the Act") and the High Hedges (Appeals) (England) Regulations 2005 ("the Appeal Regulations") 5.
It makes provision for local Councils to determine complaints by the owners/occupiers of domestic property adversely affected by evergreen hedges over 2 metres high. The Council are able to charge a fee for this service, to be paid by the complainant. They may also reject the complaint if they consider that insufficient effort has been made to resolve the matter amicably, or that the complaint is frivolous or vexatious.
The role of the Council is not to mediate or negotiate between the complainant and the hedge owner but to adjudicate 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 they consider the circumstances justify it, the local authority 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.
The Council may, if they consider the circumstances justify it, issue a notice requiring the owner or occupier of the land where the hedge is situated to take action to remedy the problem and to prevent it recurring. This is known as a "remedial notice". Any remedial notice may be enforced through criminal prosecutions and/or by the Council entering the land and carrying out the necessary work if the owner or occupier fails to do so. 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 law does not require all hedges to be reduced to, or maintained at, a height of 2 metres.
Download a high hedge application form (NB a fee of £300 is payable per application).
Many of the problems associated with hedges occur because fast-growing plants have been used for quick results, producing hedges that are difficult to maintain and have become too large. Choosing more suitable hedging plants or finding another way of achieving the effect that is wanted can, therefore, help avoid outsize hedges and prevent future problems.
People normally do not need permission to plant a hedge in their garden. And there are no general restrictions on how high you can grow your hedge. The rules that govern the height of boundary walls and fences do not apply to hedges.
While common law rights entitle neighbours to cut overhanging branches back to the boundary line (unless other legal restrictions, such as a tree preservation order, apply), they cannot reduce the height of a hedge unless the owner agrees.
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