Date Published 16 July 2018
This guide gives you all the information about your rights and what you should do if there is a problem with a neighbour's overgrown hedge
the following information, with help from the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
It explains the powers local authorities have to deal with disputes between neighbours about high hedges.
What is the law around high hedges?
It's all centred on part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, which allows councils to deal with complaints about high hedges.
They must first decide whether the height of the hedge is having an adverse effect on a neighbour's enjoyment of their home and/or its garden or yard. If it is, then councils can order the owner of a high hedge to take action to put the problem right and stop it from happening again.
The legislation also allows local authorities to set and charge fees for handling these complaints.
My neighbour's hedge is causing a problem. What should I do?
First, try to discuss the problem with your neighbour and make efforts to settle the dispute informally. This process must be attempted before a complaint can be made to your local authority.
The council can reject your complaint if they think you haven't taken all reasonable steps to try to settle your dispute without involving them.
What kind of issues can the council look at?
If you can answer ‘yes' to all the points listed below, the authority is likely to be able to consider your complaint:
• Is the hedge (or the part of it that's causing problems) a ‘high hedge'?
• Is the hedge -
– growing on land owned or occupied by someone else?
– made up of a line of 2 or more trees or shrubs?
– mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen?
– more than 2 metres tall?
– a barrier to light or access (even if there are gaps)?
• Does this hedge's height harm the reasonable enjoyment of a home you own or occupy and/or its garden or yard?
• Are you the owner or occupier of this domestic property?
Does the hedge have to be in my neighbour's garden?
The hedge must be on land owned or occupied by someone else. But the further away it is, the more difficult it will be to show that the hedge's height is harming the reasonable enjoyment of all or part of your home and/or its garden or yard.
Can I complain to the council about single trees or single shrubs?
No. But you can still try to settle your dispute informally.
What is a semi-evergreen tree or shrub?
One that keeps some live or green leaves all year round. This doesn't include those privet hedges that lose all their leaves in winter and beech or hornbeam hedges that keep dead leaves in winter.
Where do you measure the hedge's height from?
From ground level. This is usually at the base of the trunk or main stem of the trees or shrubs in the hedge. If the hedge is on a bank or in a raised bed the measurement should be taken from the natural ground level.
What does ‘capable of obstructing light or access (even if there are gaps)' mean?
It is a matter of judgement whether a hedge meets this test. The key question is - to what extent does the hedge block light or views, even if there are gaps in the greenery or between the trees or shrubs?
How do I complain to the council?
The authority's website will have information on how you can contact them. It may also have information on how to make your complaint, any fee you may need to pay and which department handles complaints.
How do I know if it will do any good to complain to the council?
You can't be sure what the result will be. So, before you send your complaint and any fee to the authority, it's important to collect all relevant information that you may need and think carefully about your reasons for complaining.
What will they do with my complaint?
Once they're satisfied that your complaint meets the legal tests, the council will invite your neighbour to set out their case. When they've got both sides of the story, a council officer will visit the site to look at the hedge and its surroundings.
The officer will also get other facts that they need to help them decide your complaint. They might, for example, measure the size of your garden or how far the hedge is from windows in your home.
Once they've got all this information, the council will weigh it all up. They will decide whether the hedge adversely affects the reasonable enjoyment of your home and its garden or yard and what, if anything, should be done.
If they decide action is necessary, they'll issue a formal ‘remedial notice' to your neighbour and give you a copy. This notice sets out what must be done to the hedge and when it must be done by. It may require your neighbour to keep the hedge trimmed to a certain height.
Can the council order my neighbour to remove the hedge?
No. They cannot order your neighbour to:
• remove the hedge
• take any action that could result in the hedge's death or destruction
• trim the hedge to a height less than 2 metres above ground level
What happens if my neighbour doesn't cut the hedge when they're meant to?
It's an offence to fail to do what a remedial notice requires. Such an offence is punishable with a fine of up to £1,000. Also, the council can enter the land and carry out the required work.
Can I cut my neighbour's hedge?
If you do anything more than trim overhanging branches, your neighbour could take you to court for damaging their property.
If the hedge includes protected trees, you might need to get separate permission from the council for trimming overhanging branches.
What can I do if I disagree with the council's decision?
You can appeal to the independent Planning Inspector. So can your neighbour.
What about overgrown hedges on public land? Who is responsible for those?
Local authorities are responsible for maintaining areas such as open spaces, cemeteries, schools, sheltered accommodation, council housing, parks and playing fields. They will have a maintenance regime which would include shrub and hedge pruning or removal. Though, they can't cut hedges that have birds nesting in them.
Where can I get more information?
There is plenty of information, including various guides, on the website of the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government.( https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/high-hedges-complaining-to-the-council/high-hedges-complaining-to-the-council )