The Government has produced regulations about high hedges and has issued guidance to help Local Authorities to deal with complaints about them. From 1 June 2005 High Hedge disputes between neighbours can be referred to the Council.
The law makes provision for local Councils to determine complaints by owners/occupiers of domestic properties 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. A fee of £500 is payable in advance.
Part 8 of the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003 (PDF, 365KB) deals with high hedges affecting domestic property. The legal definition of a hedge can be found in Part 8, Section 66 of the Act. Generally, a line of two or more evergreens of a height of more than 2 metres above ground level constitutes a hedge.
The Council may, if they consider the circumstances justify it, issue a notice requiring the hedge owner to take action to remedy the problem and prevent it reoccurring. This is known as a ‘remedial notice’. This notice can be enforced by the Council entering onto the land and carrying out the necessary work if the hedge owner fails to do so.
The Communities and Local Government Office (DCLG) have produced an advisory leaflet called Over the Garden Hedge (PDF, 1.02MB) to help you to avoid such disagreements.
Further Government advice about High Hedges is also available.
High Hedges- Prevention and Cure (PDF, 1.12MB) is a detailed guide which sets out the Government's policy advice on administering complaints about high hedges and how Council's should run the complaints process in line with good administrative practice.
Garden hedges may also be subject to planning control. It is therefore always best to check with us before carrying out work.
Making a complaint to us
People are able to take complaints to the Council about high hedges, provided they have tried and exhausted all other means for resolving their hedge dispute.
The Council will expect you to provide documentary evidence to demonstrate that you have tried to amicably address the problem within the last six months and that you have kept records of letters, conversations and mediation.
If you can demonstrate the above, the Council can look at your complaint if:
- the hedge is made up of a line of two or more evergreen or semi evergreen trees or shrubs
- it is over a height of two metres (measured from natural ground level), and
- it is capable of obstructing light or views and can detract from the reasonable enjoyment of your home or garden due to its height.
Full details of why the hedge is causing a problem to you must be explained to the Council. The leaflet High Hedges - complaining to the Council (PDF, 425KB) explains the procedure for making a complaint.
Frequently asked questions on high hedges
These questions and answers deal with a range of issues relating to complaints about high hedges.
Q. What is the Council’s role when dealing with high hedge complaints?
A. The role of the Council is to act as an independent and impartial third party. They do not negotiate or mediate between individuals but will adjudicate on whether the hedge is affecting the reasonable enjoyment of the complainant’s property.
Q. What are the grounds of complaint a person can make against their neighbour’s high hedge?
A. A complaint can only be made about problems that are experienced in the house or garden . For example the hedge may be a barrier to light or access or where it restricts a view. A complaint cannot be made about a high hedge where there are suspected root problems or that the hedge is unsightly.
Q. What constitutes a ‘High Hedge’?
A. A High Hedge is defined in the Act as a line of two or more evergreen or semi evergreen trees or shrubs that is more than 2 metres above ground level and capable of obstructing light or views
Q. Do I have to pay the council to consider my complaint ?
A. Yes, the government has stated that local authorities can charge for the service. The council has approved a basic fee level of £500 in respect of any complaint received under the provisions of the Act.
Q. Can the fee be refunded if the council uphold the complaint?
Q. Who will be dealing with complaints?
A. Officers within the council’s planning department have been assigned to deal with complaints about high hedges.
Q. How is a complaint made?
A. The council will send a form for the complainant to fill in. The form will require details of the grounds of complaint and supporting documents including a photo of the hedge, its location and copies of correspondence with the hedge owner.
Q. What will the council do with the complaint?
A. Once the council is satisfied that the complaint meets the legal tests, they will invite the neighbour to set out their case. An officer will undertake a site visit and assess the hedge and its surroundings for themselves. It is likely that measurements of both the hedge and the garden will need to be taken. The information will then be assessed using calculations provided by the government. If the council decide action is necessary, a formal notice will be issued to the hedge owner, setting out what must be done to the hedge and when it must be done by. This is known as a remedial notice. It can also require the hedge owner to keep the hedge trimmed to its new size.
Q. Can the remedial notice require the hedge owner to remove the hedge?
A. No, the notice can only require the hedge to be reduced in height. The minimum height a hedge can be maintained at is 2 metres, although in some cases it might be higher than this, depending upon the position of the hedge and its relationship to the affected property. A height of 2 metres may not be appropriate in every case
Q. How long will it take for the council to decide the complaint?
A. There is no set deadline to decide a complaint. The government has suggested in its leaflet high hedges: complaining to the council that people should not expect a decision on their complaint for at least 12 weeks.
Q. What if the hedge owner fails to cut the hedge after being delivered a remedial notice?
A. Failure to carry out the works ordered by the council is an offence. The hedge owner could be prosecuted and if found guilty in a magistrates court could be fined up to £1000. The council can go onto the property and cut the hedge if the hedge owner fails to undertake the work themselves, and recover the costs incurred.
Q. What if the complainant disagrees with the council’s decision?
A. If the complainant disagrees with the council’s decision, they can appeal to the independent planning inspectorate within 28 days of the date of the council’s decision letter.
Q. Are there any leaflets that explain complaints about high hedges.
A. Yes, the government has produced a leaflet called 'High Hedges - Complaining to the council' and ‘over the garden hedge’. Both can be downloaded further up this page or you can request them from Communities and Local Government (CLG) Tel 0300 123 1124.