This page gives information on what is considered to be a High Hedge, various guidance documents, what to do before you make a complaint, the Council's role in the complaint procedure, how to make a High Hedge complaint and what happens after a formal complaint is made including the right to appeal.
Hedges can be a real bonus in a garden, creating shelter and privacy, a green backcloth to gardens and a buffer to commercial premises and street traffic. However, inappropriate and/or badly maintained hedges can cause worry and excessive work for owners and may lead to disputes with neighbours over their maintenance and height. Rapid-growing, coniferous hedges are the most problematic, especially Leyland’s Cypress, sometimes referred to as 'leylandii.'
Part eight of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 gives Local Authorities the power to deal with complaints about high hedges provided that you have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving any hedge dispute. Should this be the case you will be able to forward your complaint to us by completing the form below and submitting detailed evidence and other documentation.
A high hedge is defined as a line of two or more evergreen, or semi-evergreen, trees or shrubs which are two or more metres in height and which block light or access to a domestic property. The legislation on high hedges excludes such complaints as those relating to root damage, the effect the hedge dispute is having on personal feelings and personal perception of the hedge and its condition or the effect the hedge has on television or satellite reception.
It is not the role of the Local Authority to mediate or negotiate between neighbours, but to adjudicate as a neutral 'third party' on whether - in the words of the Act - the hedge is 'adversely affecting the complainant's reasonable enjoyment of their property'. In doing so, we must take account of all relevant factors and must strike a balance between the competing interests of the complainant and the hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.
At Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, the responsibility of dealing with High Hedge complaints is administered by the Development Control section.
Clearing up some of the myths about the regulations:
- The legislation does not require all hedges to be cut down to two metres height.
- You do not have to get permission to grow a hedge above two metres.
- When a hedge grows over 2 metres, the council cannot automatically take action, unless a justifiable complaint is made and a fee paid.
- It does not automatically follow that we will order the hedge owner to reduce its height - each case will be looked at on its merits.
- The legislation does not cover single trees.
- Nor does it cover deciduous hedges or trees. (which lose their leaves in winter)
- The council cannot require a hedge to be removed.
- The legislation does not guarantee access to uninterrupted light.
- ASBOs (Anti-social Behaviour Orders) are not used in high hedge complaints.
- The legislation will not mean that you can prune your neighbour's hedge.
- Beech hedges are not included.
What should I have done before contacting the local authority?
We should be contacted as a last resort if a solution can not be reached with your neighbours. We have a right to refuse to intervene if it is felt that everything reasonably possible has not been attempted to settle the dispute. Even if your dispute has been ongoing for years we will expect a recent attempt at compromise or a resolution to the problem to be proved.
Talk to your neighbours or write them a polite letter outlining your concerns.
Failing this, invite them to talk to an independent mediator.
You should keep a diary of all these actions and measures you have undertaken to compromise with your neighbour. To just say your neighbour is unapproachable will not be acceptable.
Central Government have produced useful leaflets which gives advice on settling hedge disputes without involving the Local Authority. It is strongly recommended that anyone contemplating making a formal complaint reads the official leaflets before doing anything else:
- Hedge Height and Light Loss - a useful technical document that explains how to measure the detrimental effect of a high hedge.
- Over the Garden Hedge - advice on how to resolve a hedge dispute with your neighbour.
- High Hedges: Complaining to the Council - advice on the various processes and stages that complainants and complainers will have to go through in any eventual dealings with us.
- High Hedges Complaints: Prevention and Cure - which provides an outline of the law and offers advice on the implementation of the system.
How do I make a high hedge complaint to the local authority?
Provided you can demonstrate that you have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving their hedge dispute, house owners/tenants will be able to make a complaint about a neighbour's high hedge to the Council.
A High Hedge complaint can be made by using the form below or alternatively a paper copy of the form can be obtained from the Planning Administration Office by calling Leicester (0116) 257 2636 or by visiting the Council Offices.
Why do I have to pay for this and how much will it cost?
The council has taken the view that the service is to be self-funding, rather than an additional burden on all council tax payers. The total fee payable is £450 (although this is reduced to £300 for people claiming means tested benefits or war pensions).
You should think very carefully before complaining to us, the fee will be non refundable, even if the complaint is considered not worthy of action in accordance with the legislation.
It is important to understand the way the legislation works. It allows the Borough Council to review these cases, as independent and impartial third parties. It is not investigating an offence - none has been committed even if a complainant 'wins' their case as 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 - and so the legislation does not deal in innocent or guilty parties. As a result, the fee is a payment for a service and is not a penalty to the complaint.
What happens when a high hedge complaint is made?
The Local Authority will consider the merits of the complaint and what is the impact of the High Hedge. The Authority will either decide that the Hedge does not give rise to any harm (and dismiss the complaint) or if the circumstances justify it, the council will issue a formal Remedial Notice to the hedge owner. This will set out what they must do to the hedge to remedy the problem. This will include an "action height" to which the hedge should be reduced, and a range of heights within which the hedge should be maintained in the future. It will also set out dates when the work must be done by, and if the work needs to be phased to avoid the bird nesting season or to stagger drastic pruning interventions.
Failure to carry out the works required by us is an offence, which on prosecution, could lead to a fine of up to £1,000 and so much per day thereafter. We ultimately have the power to carry out the works in default of the hedge owner and recover our costs.
How long will it take for my application to be considered?
There is no defined timescale as to how long we have to reach a decision on a complaint about a high hedge; it will take time to gather all the information from both parties and to conduct a site visit.
What if I disagree with your view?
If you do not agree with the our decision whether you are the complainant or the owner of the hedge you have the right to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. They must receive your appeal within twenty eight days of the date of our decision letter. Central Government have also produced a useful information guide which can be found below.
More information on the appeals procedure can be found on the Planning Portals High Hedge pages.
- Hedge Height and Light Loss (PDF Document, 358 Kb)
- High Hedge Complaints : Prevention and Cure (PDF Document, 768.31 Kb)
- High Hedges : Complaining to the Council (PDF Document, 394.86 Kb)
- Over the Garden Hedge (PDF Document, 973.63 Kb)
- High Hedge Complaint Form (PDF Document, 33.37 Kb)
- High hedges - appealing against the council's decision (PDF Document, 313.11 Kb)
Last updated: Thursday, 28 May 2015 9:59 am