High hedges on domestic sites

Complaints about high hedges

Once you have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving your dispute with your neighbour regarding an evergreen hedge, which is over 2 metres in height, you can complain to the Council by submitting detailed forms, supporting evidence and other documentation and a fee of £481.

The Council’s role, which has been set by central government, is not to mediate or negotiate between you (the complainant) and the hedge owner but to adjudicate on whether - in the words of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 - "the hedge is adversely affecting your reasonable enjoyment of your property". In doing so, the Council must take account of all relevant factors and must strike a balance between the competing interests of you and the hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.

A high hedge is defined in the Act as a barrier to light or access as is formed wholly or predominately by a line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs and rises to a height of more than 2 metres above ground level. Cypresses such as the infamous leylandii will be included, as will other conifers, yew, laurel, box and other evergreens/semi-evergreens. However the Act will only offer control over hedges that affect domestic properties, which are defined as a dwelling or any associated garden or yard. Individual trees and shrubs will be outside the scope of the legislation.

If the Council consider the circumstances justify it a formal notice to the hedge owner will be issued, which will set out what they must do to the hedge to remedy the problem, and when by. Failure to carry out the works required by the authority is an offence which, on prosecution, could lead to a fine of up to £1,000.

Before complaining

If you have been trying for a long time to resolve your concerns or if you do not get on with your neighbour mediation might be the answer.

Community mediation is particularly effective in this type of dispute. It involves an independent and impartial person (the mediator) helping those in dispute to work together to reach a settlement. The mediator's job is not to make a decision. Instead, they help the people concerned to understand each other's point of view - dealing with how they feel about the situation as well as the facts - without apportioning blame.

From there, the participants can move forward to think about how they could put matters right and to agree a plan of action. If mediation is to work, people must go into it willingly.

Local mediation services are available through the National Mediation Helpline.

It is strongly recommended that before making a formal complaint you read the Communities and Local Government information on high hedges.

How to complain

Having tried to mediate as described above, if all else fails, you should complete a High Hedges Complaint Form(pdf, 34KB). Download the guidance notes to assist you(pdf, 46KB).

You must supply the Council with at least 3 copies of this form and all accompanying plans, documents, correspondence and photographs. The Council will ensure this information is forwarded to the hedge owner. One copy is retained on a working file and can be viewed on request by the public, the third is retained and may be used for consultation purposes (for example, with the Forestry Officer).

It is recommended that you keep a copy of your complaint form and all accompanying documentation for reference purposes.

In either of the circumstances listed below, you will need to supply the Council with one additional copy of your form and the accompanying documentation:

  • Where the owner and occupier of the site where the hedge is located are not the same person
  • If you are not the owner of the property affected by the hedge or if somebody else is occupying your property which is affected by the hedge

Why should I have to pay the Council to consider my complaint?

The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 states that complainant’s must pay a fee to the Council when they submit their hedge complaint. Central government state that there are several reasons why they think 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
  • 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"

The fee

A fee of £505 has been set by the Council and this should accompany every complaint that is submitted. If a complaint is received without payment it will be returned and no further action will be taken on it.

The charge has been assessed to ensure the cost of the work involved in providing the service is met and the set fee will be reassessed after six months have lapsed.

No refunds will be made by the Council except at the discretion of the Environment Director and unless the matter is resolved and the Council is informed in writing by the complainant prior to any administrative work being carried out by the Council.

Updated: 30 March 2016