The right hedge can be ideal garden boundary, but the wrong hedge may bring problems. Fast-growing evergreens, such as Leylandii, should be regularly trimmed by the owner to maintain them at a height that is suitable for the location.
What constitutes a high hedge?
The hedge is growing on land owned by someone else (neighbour)
The hedge is more than 2 metres tall
The hedge is made up of 2 or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs (so that they are in leaf all year round)
The hedge is obstructing light to your garden or to windows of your house (main dwelling)
Legislation relating to high hedges does not apply to individual trees, bamboo (which is considered to be a form of grass) or a deciduous hedge (has no leaves in the winter months).
Although one of the parameters to qualify for consideration under the legislation is that the hedge is taller than 2 metres, this does not mean that all hedges must be kept to less than 2 metres in height or that the council will require any hedge to be reduced to 2 metres.
The legislation does not grant the council power to require the hedge owner to cut back the sides or face of the hedge if it is overhanging your boundary. This is instead covered by your rights under the Common Law.
The legislation cannot require such a reduction of height that it would cause the death, destruction or removal of the hedge - or a significant impact upon its health that would likely lead to the same outcome.
Under the legislation, the council cannot consider other matters, such as the common examples below, and may decline further involvement based on such grounds:
disagreements or opinions regarding neighbours and/or if a complaint is considered to be vexatious
if you consider the hedge to be unsightly, to exacerbate health symptoms that you may suffer with, to be a fire risk, to be causing issues of subsidence or damage to your property, to host birds or other animals (including vermin) that present you with issues as a neighbour.
First step - speak with your neighbour
If you are troubled by your neighbour's hedge, the best way to deal with the issue is to talk with your neighbour.
Calling in the council or going to court (especially without first approaching your neighbour), might make matters worse. It's in both your interests to try and sort things out between yourselves - after all, you have to continue to live near each other, so it's better if you are on good terms.
Making a high hedges complaint should be seen as a last resort when all other options to resolve the dispute have been unsuccessful.
If you have gone through the steps outlined in the guidance and are unable to sort things out between yourselves, you can contact the council.
Evidence will need to be provided to show that attempts have been made to settle the dispute. We can refuse to intervene if it appears that those involved have not done everything they can to try to settle the dispute themselves.
A fee of £683 is charged to the complainant for a formal decision report to be prepared and issued. The fee reflects the amount of work involved in investigating and concluding a case. This is another reason why it is important for the parties to try to resolve a case between them before involving the council.
Please note: The fee is waived if the complainant is aged over 65. We do not discount or waive this fee for people who are under 65 and/or in receipt of benefits, but free advice can be given on whether the hedge is likely to require remedial action.
On receipt of a complaint form, we will decide if the complaint meets the criteria set out in the guidance leaflet. If it does, we will contact the owner of the hedge to ask for information and their opinion.
When this has been received, a council officer will arrange to visit to view the hedge from both properties. Measurements and photographs will be taken.
When all the information has been gathered, the officer will make a decision on whether or not the height of the hedge should be reduced and will write a formal decision report. If it is decided that the height needs to be reduced, (if necessary) a legal notice may be served on the owner of the hedge.