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High Hedges and problem hedges are fast becoming one of the largest neighbour dispute issues. Here you will be able to find out about the High Hedges legislation, what your Local Authority can do and what you must do to get your Local Authority involved. The legislation is fairly complicated and therefore it is difficult to reproduce all the points on this web page. We will however raise the main points of what you need to do and what we can do if you have a valid case. Information on High Hedges is supported by Planning and Development, Planning.
The Communities and Local Government Department has produced two leaflets, 'over the garden hedge' and 'High hedges: complaining to the Council'. Both leaflets are also available at the Council offices on Priory Road, Spalding.
It is strongly recommended that you read through both of these leaflets before you ask the Council to get involved.
If a neighbour or adjacent property has a high hedge and you feel it is affecting the reasonable enjoyment of your garden or home you can make an official complaint to the Council who will undertake an investigation. However, before the Council can become involved there are a number of things you must do. Firstly, you have to prove to the Council that you have tried to resolve the problem by talking to the owner of the hedge. You may also have to obtain advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau or have used a third party such as Mediation UK. There are links and contact details to these and other third party organisations that may be able to help at the bottom of this page.
If you feel that you have tried to resolve the situation in this way without any success, as long as you can prove to the Council of this attempt we can then consider a complaint and begin an investigation. It may or may not be common knowledge that the legislation allows a Local Authority to charge a fee, payable by the complainant, to investigate a case. The fee for dealing with a complaint will be £200.
You must also inform the owner of the hedge that you intend to request the Council's involvement in resolving the situation. It is extremely important that you do this, the owner of the hedge will then be expecting contact from us. If you fail to notify the owner of the hedge that you are requesting the Council's involvement, when we contact them regarding the situation this may lead to a poorer relationship between you and your neighbour.
Once you have done all the above you will be required to fill out the Complaints Form. This must be submitted to us along with:
a) The Fee.
b) Supporting evidence of your attempt to resolve the
c) A photo of the trees in question.
Please use the Guidance Notes to help you fill out the form
What to do to get this service
Once we have the completed form with ALL the relevant information we will then write to the owner of the hedge and request a statement from them. Once we receive this statement we will then conduct a site visit in which we determine the harm, if any, the hedge is causing. The legislation ONLY covers the loss of light to a garden or home, it DOES NOT take into account issues such as moisture loss, root damage or any other detrimental affect a hedge may be causing.
The site visit will take into account things such as the height of the hedge, the size of your garden, the distances from the hedge to your windows, whether your garden slopes away from or up to the hedge, the direction the affected garden faces (North, South, East or West).
After the site visit we should have all the information we need to make a balanced and fair decision, at this stage one of two things will happen:
a) We will serve a remedial notice to the owner of the hedge
which will require them to reduce the hedge to a certain
height and maintain it at a certain height, or
b) We will not serve a notice in which case all parties will be
informed in writing of such a decision.
The Next Steps
If a notice is served, the owner of the hedge must comply with the conditions in that notice within the time period stated by that notice. If they fail to do so it becomes an offence which is punishable at a magistrates court to a level of £1000 fine for EACH offence. The Council will also have Power of Entry rights to enter someone's property and carry out the work on there behalf. If we have to do this we will place a 'charge' on the owners land/property (the land that the hedge sits on) and we will recoup our costs when that land/property next changes ownership by sale.
Further Information on this service
The Appeals Process
The legislation does allow for both the owner of the hedge AND the complainant to appeal against a decision made by the Council. Here there are various situations, the owner of the hedge can appeal if:
- They feel that no remedial notice should have been served in the first place,
- They feel the conditions of the notice are too excessive (we require the hedge to be lowered by too much),
- They feel the time in which they must do the works is not long enough for them to get it done.
Likewise the complainant can appeal if:
- They feel a notice should have been served and wasn't,
- They feel the conditions of the notice are not excessive enough (we didn't require enough of the hedge to be pruned)
ALL APPEALS MUST BE MADE WITHIN 28 DAYS OF THE DATE OF THE REMEDIAL NOTICE OR THE LETTER CONFIRMING NO ACTION IS NEEDED.
Appeals should be made to the Planning Inspectorate more information can be obtained at www.dclg.gov.uk.
MAIN POINTS SUMMARISED.
- You must have tried to resolve the situation, and be able to prove this to the Council, before we get involved.
- You MUST inform the owner of the hedge that you intend to get the Council involved.
- If we feel some action is required we CANNOT enforce the hedge to be either totally removed or reduced below 2 metres in height (measured from the base of the hedge).
- The Council WILL attempt to make a reasonable, balanced and fair decision when considering complaints. The appeals process is there, however, if you feel we have made an incorrect decision.
- Appeals must be made within 28 Days of the date of the Remedial Notice or any other correspondence informing parties of the Council's final decision.
- Appeals must be made in writing to the Planning Inspectorate.
- Any failure to comply with a Remedial Notice is punishable in court by a fine of £1000 for each non-compliance.
How much will it cost?
The cost for investigating a high hedge complaint is £200
How long will I have to wait for a response?
We will aim to conduct a site visit within 20 working days of receipt of the formal complaints form, subject to obtaining the statement from the owner of the alleged high hedge.
Links to forms, leaflets and websites providing more information
Please find below links to other websites and information that will help you.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Q. What is the definition of a high hedges.
A. According to the Act a high hedge is defined as any evergreen tree or shrub which is higher than two metres and consists of tow or more individual trees or shrubs.
Q. How will/does the procedure work?
A. Once the Local Authority is able to enforce the High Hedges Act, we will need to be notified of any problem hedges. The legislation on the procedure is very detailed and can be viewed in full at www.odpm.gov.uk. In general as a local authority we firstly need the complainant to prove that they have tried to remedy the situation directly with the neighbour who's hedge is causing the problem. If this is proved and the problem is still evident then the Local Authority will investigate the situation. During this investigation the Enforcement Team will try to establish if the hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of the complainants property. The Enforcement Team will either then a) take no further action or b) serve a remedial notice.
Q. What will the remedial notice entail?
A. The remedial notice will set out certain things that the owner of the hedge will have to do, these may be numerous different measures to not only solve the problem but to prevent it from happening again. However, the local authority cannot demand the hedge to be reduced in height to less than two metres or for the hedge to be completely removed.
Q. What can I do if I am not happy about the remedial notice?
A. There is many situations where both the owner of the hedge and the complainant can appeal against a decision in the remedial notice. The owner can appeal against a decision given to them and the complainant can appeal against something in the remedial notice they are not happy with. Because the legislation is reasonably complex, if you are involved in a dispute over a hedge that the local authority has become involved in and you want to know more about appealing against a decision please contact the local authority.
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