Once all avenues for resolving a hedge dispute have been exhausted, a complaint about a neighbour's evergreen hedge can be made to the council.
An overview of the legislation
The council has the power, under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 and the High Hedges Regulations 2005, to deal with complaints about high hedges which affect residential properties.
- The legislation does not require all hedges to be cut down to a height of two metres.
- You do not have to get permission to grow a hedge above two metres.
- When a hedge grows over two metres, the local council does not automatically take action, unless a justifiable complaint is made.
- If you complain to your local council, it does not automatically follow that they will order your neighbour to reduce the height of their hedge. They have to weigh-up all the issues and consider each case on its merits.
- The legislation does not cover single or deciduous trees.
- The local authority cannot require the hedge to be removed.
- The legislation does not guarantee access to uninterrupted light.
- There is no provision to serve an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) in respect of high hedge complaints.
When are you entitled to make a complaint?
Once all avenues for resolving a hedge dispute have been exhausted, a complaint about a neighbour's evergreen hedge can be made to us.
What you must do
You should complete a planning enforcement complaint form and send it to your local area office.
As part of the application, you will have to show that all reasonable attempts have been taken to resolve the dispute before involving us. We will not normally accept an application where there is no substantiated evidence that the negotiation process has been pursued.
You must notify anyone else with an interest in the property affected by the hedge and the owner and/or occupier of the property where the hedge is growing. A fee must be sent with the application form which will contribute towards the cost of administering the complaint. The fee for a High Hedges Complaint is £385.
Our role is not to mediate or negotiate between the complainant and the hedge owner but to adjudicate on whether - in the words of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 (High Hedges) - '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 hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.
If we consider that the circumstances justify it, a formal notice will be issued to the hedge owner, 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 is an offence which could lead to a fine.
What happens next
We must decide whether the hedge is adversely affecting your reasonable enjoyment of your property. So that we can make this judgement, we will take account of all relevant factors and strike a balance between the interests of you, the complainant, the hedge owner and the interests of the wider community. Consultations may also be involved in the decision-making process.
A prime factor in determining any complaint will be the long-term health of the hedge. Government advice indicates that it would be inappropriate to require a reduction in the height of a hedge to a level that would result in its eventual death.
A formal decision will be made and copied to anyone who has an interest in the property affected by the hedge and the owner and/or occupier of the site where the hedge is growing.
Any information supplied to us in support of a formal high hedges complaint, can be made available to any other parties who request access to this information.
Your right to appeal
If you disagree with our decision on a complaint about a high hedge, or the hedge owner disagrees with a remedial notice issued by us, there is a process for asking the independent Planning Inspectorate to review the case. This is known as an appeal. The Planning Inspectorate has prepared guidance on high hedges appeals, this guidance and the relevant forms can be found through the web links on this page.
How can I demonstrate that I have attempted to negotiate with my neighbour?
Before a complaint can be registered, you must be able to demonstrate that you have made all reasonable attempts to resolve the matters without the involvement of the council. Verbal negotiation will count towards this requirement, but it would be usual for there to have been written communication with your neighbours before you ask us to register your complaint.
Evidence is required to substantiate each approach, for example, your written account of a meeting, a copy of a letter you have written, together with any reply. At least one written attempt to resolve the dispute must be made after the legislation came into effect on 1 June 2005.
- 03000 262 830
Our address is:
- County Hall
- County Durham
- United Kingdom
- DH1 5UL