An overview on High Hedges
Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, gives local authorities powers to deal with complaints about high hedges.
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 - Arun District Council.
The role of the local authority 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.
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.
Cutting the tall stories down to size
- 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.
It is strongly recommended that anyone who is considering in making a formal complaint reads the following Government leaflets before doing anything else.
Alternatively we can send you a hard copy, by contacting Parks and Greenspace.
The following leaflets are available:-
Settling Problems Amicably, see: Over the Garden Hedge
When to involve the Council, see: High Hedges: Complaining to the Council
Our advice is to make every attempt to resolve the problem now, before the need for exhaustive and expensive formal legal procedures.
The Fee for this service at Arun District Council is £450.
Both the complainant and the hedge owner will have a right to appeal against the local authority decision to the planning inspectorate.
Failure to comply with a notice to reduce/remove a hedge could result in a fine of up to £1,000. The local authority would also have the power to carry out works itself and recover costs from the hedge owner.
Overview of Hedge Process
The following diagram gives you an overview of the process:-
Frequently Asked Questions on High Hedges
Why should the person who is suffering the hedge problems have to pay the Council to intervene?
The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 states that complainants must pay a fee to the local authority when they submit their hedge complaint. There are several reasons why the Government considers 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.
The Government decided that 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.
But the complainant is the innocent party in this dispute.
It is important to understand the way the legislation works. It allows local authorities to review these cases, as independent and impartial third parties. Authorities are not investigating any offence - none has been committed, even if a complainant ’wins’ their case - and so the legislation does not deal in innocent or guilty parties. As a result, the fee is a payment for a service - not a penalty.
How can there be no offence: it’s anti-social behaviour?
There is no special significance in the high hedges provisions being included in the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003. It simply provided a suitable opportunity, and vehicle, to get the high hedges legislation onto the statute book after several unsuccessful attempts through Private Members Bills. Certainly, the Act makes no provision for an Anti-social Behaviour Order to be served on the hedge owner. And no offence is committed until such time as a hedge owner fails to implement a local authority’s order to carry out works to the hedge to remedy the problems it is causing.
Can I reclaim the fee from the hedge owner?
There is no procedure under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 for the complainant to obtain re-payment of the fee, either from the local authority or from the hedge owner.
People have asked about taking their neighbours to the small claims court. This is the special procedure for handling smaller claims in the county court. It can be used for most claims for £5,000 or less and so, on the face of it, the procedure may apply to reimbursement of the fee for making a complaint about a neighbour’s high hedge. However, issuing a claim at court should be a last resort. People should have tried other ways of settling the matter; for example, by writing to their neighbour to ask for recompense.
Further information is contained in the leaflets ’Making a Claim’ (Leaflet EX301) and ’The Small Claims Track’ (Leaflet EX307) available from the county court and at www.courtservice.gov.uk. Court staff can advise on the procedures, provide the necessary forms and help people to fill them out, but the final decision rests with the judge. So, court staff cannot tell someone whether or not they have a good claim or comment on their chances of success. People may be able to get free legal advice from a law centre to help them with this.
Deciduous Trees and Hedges
Why can’t I complain to my local authority about deciduous trees and hedges that cause problems?
The Government has restricted the legislation to evergreen hedges because there was evidence that a widespread problem existed - this was from Hedgeline, the campaign group, and other letters received from all over the country. Both the problem and possible solutions were the subject of public consultation. The results indicated overwhelming support for new laws to deal with evergreen hedges, including among the majority of local authorities who replied. Our mandate - and commitment - to legislative action is, therefore, to take action in respect of evergreen hedges only.
If you would like to make further enquiries, or receive an application form to complain to the Council, together with guidance notes, or a copy of the available leaflets, please contact:
You can also select the following link www.communities.gov.uk