High Hedges legislation came into operation on 1 June 2005 under Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003. This legislation gave local authorities powers to deal with complaints about high hedges.

Provided you have exhausted all other ways of resolving a hedge dispute with your neighbours, you can take your complaint about a neighbour's predominantly evergreen or semi-evergreen hedge to Stratford-on-Avon District Council.

The role of the council will be to judge whether the hedge is adversely affecting the complainant's reasonable enjoyment of their property. In doing so the council will take account of all relevant factors and strike a balance between the interests of the complainant and the hedge owner.

Where circumstances justify it, the council will issue a formal notice on the hedge owner, which will set out what they must do to the hedge to remedy the problem within a specific timetable.

Under what circumstances can a complaint be made?

You must demonstrate that you have done everything you reasonably could to settle the dispute before submitting the complaint.

The hedge must be:

  • growing on land owned by someone else
  • made up of a line of two or more trees or shrubs
  • mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen
  • more than 2m tall

You must be the owner or occupier (e.g. tenant) of the property affected by the hedge, and the affected property must be residential.

Further information and guidance can be found in on the gov.uk High Hedges pages.

Why do I have to try to resolve the issue with my neighbour before coming to the council?

The legislation requires the complainant to provide the council with information to show that they have tried to resolve the matter with their neighbour before asking for the council to become involved.

Applying to the council should be the last resort when the complainant has been unable to agree a solution with their neighbour. If we do not consider that the complainant has explored all avenues of contact to try to resolve the matter with their neighbour, we may refuse to become involved at this stage in the process.

How do I approach my neighbour?

Often the easiest way to resolve a high hedge issue is to talk to the owner of the hedge and explain what the problem is with their hedge - whether it is loss of sunlight to your garden, blocking light getting into rooms within the house etc. They may not realise their hedge is a problem to you so it is better to take things slowly and let them think about the situation. Perhaps agree a time to discuss it again and ask if they would like to come and see the problems from your house or garden.

If you are not on speaking terms with your neighbour then perhaps contact should be made by a letter, pointing out the facts. You should put past differences to one side and carefully word the letter so as not to antagonise the situation; after all, you want to resolve the matter if at all possible. If you have thought what height you would prefer the hedge to be reduced and maintained at, you could mention this in your letter. You should make a note and take copies of all contact you have made with your neighbour.

My neighbour will not communicate with me about their high hedge; what can I do?

If you have tried talking to and writing to your neighbour and they have refused to communicate with you, then you can ask for help from independent mediators who are totally impartial. Even if your neighbour has not agreed to take part in mediation, you can still approach them - but in order for the mediation to be a success, both parties need to co-operate in the process.

Mediators working in the locality can be found at civilmediation.justice.gov.uk.

I've tried communicating with my neighbour and mediation but still haven't been able to satisfactorily resolve the issue. What can I do now?

If you have been unable to resolve the high hedge issue with your neighbour, then providing you have evidence that you have approached your neighbour you can submit a high hedges complaint to the District Council.

You can also obtain a High Hedges Complaint Form by calling 01789 260304 or emailing planning.applications@stratford-dc.gov.uk.

Is there a fee to submit a high hedges complaint to the Council?

Yes, the fee for submitting a complaint is £400, or £100 for complainants who are in receipt of a means-tested benefit.

Does submitting a complaint to the council always result in a positive outcome for the complainant?

Not necessarily. The process uses formulae to work out how high the hedge should be in relation to the size of your garden, location of windows, orientation of the hedge in relation to sun direction etc. The hedge in question may not be of sufficient height to be considered a nuisance under the legislation when the council applies the formulae to the site.

Each site is required to be assessed individually, so it is difficult to provide specific advice without going through the process. Also, your reasons for complaining may not be covered by the Act - for example, concerns over root-related damage to your property or roots taking moisture from the soil and creating difficult growing conditions for your plants, or fears that the hedge might fall or break in the wind etc.

I've decided to submit a formal complaint. I've sent in my form, payment and evidence of trying to resolve the matter. What happens next?

Your form is your main opportunity to set out your case, so it is important that you provide clear information and particularly what your grounds of complaint are e.g. lack of light to upstairs bedroom, lack of sunlight to garden etc. You should send a copy of your completed form to your neighbour so that they know you have lodged a complaint. The council will also send a copy of all the information you submit to your neighbour, the owner or the hedge, so it is important not to refer to them in a rude or abusive manner.

It will take some time to go through the complaint process as it is quite complex. Officers will invite your neighbour to set out their case and once the council receives the relevant information from both the hedge owner and complainant, officers will visit the site. They will view the site and surroundings and undertake detailed assessment of the composition, health, height, length and orientation of the hedge in question. Measurements will also be made of garden boundary length, area of the garden, distance from hedge to windows and possibly measurements from upstairs rooms if light to upper windows is an issue. Specific calculations are undertaken using formulae provided in a government booklet Hedge Height and Light Loss.

Once the calculations are undertaken, a report is then produced outlining the complaint, comments received from the owner of the hedge, the findings of the site visit and the results of the calculations. It will conclude whether or not the hedge does adversely affect the reasonable enjoyment of the complainant's home or garden and if so what can be done to address the situation.

If the hedge has been found to adversely affect the reasonable enjoyment of the complainant's home or garden, the council will issue a formal High Hedge Remedial Notice on the hedge owner, which will set out what they must do to the hedge to remedy the problem within a specific time period.

Will the council instruct my neighbour to reduce their high hedge down to 2m or even remove it?

No, there is a misconception that all hedges over 2m are a nuisance under the Act. They need to be more than 2m in height to qualify for assessment, but the final hedge height could be any height depending on a number of factors such as the size of your garden, the distance the hedge is from windows in your house, or the orientation of the hedge e.g. a hedge on the southern boundary will have more of an impact in terms of loss of sunlight.

The council cannot instruct a high hedge owner to remove a hedge or undertake works to a hedge which will result in the destruction or death of that hedge. Therefore, the current form and condition of the hedge is important as this can often dictate what the final height reduction can be.

I own a hedge and have received a High Hedge Remedial Notice. What does this mean for me and the property?

A High Hedge Remedial Notice is a land charge and prospective purchasers of the property will be informed of the detail within the Notice.

The High Hedge Remedial Notice will require the owner of the high hedge to undertake initial works to the hedge to remedy the situation. An initial reduction height will be specified, together with a timescale for the works to be undertaken. Preventative action will also be detailed, outlining the ongoing maintenance required to ensure that the hedge does not grow beyond a specific height and to stop the problem reoccurring.

What happens if I don't comply with the Remedial Notice?

If you are in receipt of a High Hedge Remedial Notice and decide not to comply with it, then the council could decide to prosecute you. If convicted in the magistrates' court, you could be fined up to £1,000. The court can also instruct you to undertake the work and can impose daily fines for every day that the remedial works remain outstanding.

Can I appeal against the Notice?

Yes, you can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate within 28 days of the date the High Hedge Remedial Notice was issued by the council.

The inspector may allow or dismiss the appeal either in whole or in part.

I complained to the council but disagree with the findings in the Remedial Notice served on my neighbour. Can I appeal against it?

Yes, you can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate within 28 days of the date the High Hedge Remedial Notice was issued by the council.

The inspector may allow or dismiss the appeal either in whole or in part.

I complained to the Council but it decided that no remedial action was required to the hedge. Can I appeal against the decision?

Yes, you can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate within 28 days of the date the No Remedial Action Notice was issued by the council.

The inspector may allow or dismiss the appeal either in whole or in part.

How can I get further help?

Should you require further assistance, please email planning.applications@stratford-dc.gov.uk or telephone 01789 260304.

Last updated on 28/09/2018

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