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High hedges and hedge removal

Trees The Council deals with High Hedges throughout the District. The control only applies to evergreen or semi-evergreen hedges over two metres high and the Council can only accept a complaint when reasonable steps have been made to resolve the issue.

Hedgerow Removal Notice:

Hedgerow removal is a different procedure to High hedge complaints. A hedgerow removal form is available together with the National Planning Portal guidance notes and the NFDC checklist of requirements for an application for hedgerow removal notice

High Hedge complaints

The Council deals with High Hedge Complaints throughout the District (including the New Forest National Park area) under Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003.

The control only applies to evergreen or semi-evergreen hedges comprising 2 or more plans of over two metres high and the Council can only accept a complaint when reasonable steps have been made to resolve the issue.

There is a fee for making a high hedge complaint. See current fees .

To deal with a High hedge complaint a form must be completed, and evidence submitted with it. This fee is non-refundable regardless of the decision of the Council, however we will always assess whether the complaint is valid before it is registered, and the fee is accepted.

The Council will take a minimum of 12 weeks to consider your complaint and decide whether there is a detrimental impact on amenity because of the height of the hedge.

Often this process takes considerably longer to resolve given the procedure that we currently follow.

If Remedial Action is required a Legal Notice will be served which specifies what needs to be done and in what timescale. If Remedial Action is not required a letter will be sent to all parties explaining the basis of this decision and include a copy of the case officers report and assessment.

There is a right of appeal by the complaint (s) and hedge owner against this decision within 28 days of the notification that no action is required or a Remedial Notice being served.

If you want us to determine if we consider that this is a hedge as defined in the Anti-Social Behaviour Act you can make an enquiry using High Hedge Enquiry form. See current fees .

If you satisfy the above criteria for a High hedge complaint you can submit a High hedge complaint by completing this online form: High Hedge Complaint Form, and refer to the  Complaint form guidance notes [126kb]Opens new window.

With your complaint you will need to submit the following:

1. Photographs of the hedge:

  • This should be sufficient to allow the Council to determine if the hedge complies with the stated definition of a hedge for the purposes of this legislation.
  • The date and time of the photographs should be clearly marked. Ideally, these should have been taken recently and show the extent to which the hedge casts a shadow over your property.

2. A location plan showing the hedge and surrounding properties.

3. Copies of correspondence with hedge owner about the hedge.

4. Copies of any documents that you may mention.

5. Copies of evidence of entitlement to a reduced fee (if applicable).

6. Copies of evidence of formal mediation and fee paid (if applicable).

7. The reference to any High Hedge enquiry you have made so a refund can be issued for this advice (if applicable).

You should consider this information carefully before you submit your complaint to the Council. Further information is available from the National Planning Portal.

Invalid Complaints

If a complaint is rejected because it does not meet the requirements there is no specific right of appeal. However, if you consider that the Council have not applied the legislation correctly, you can refer the matter to the Council's own complaints officer or to the Local Government Ombudsman. Alternatively, you may apply to the High Court to challenge the decision by judicial review.

High Hedge Complaint guidance:

A high hedge complaint should only be made after all other means of resolving the issue, including mediation, have taken place. Evidence of the actions taken to attempt to resolve a complaint are required to be submitted and will be considered before a complaint is accepted.

The details of how the Council deal with high Hedge Complaints are set out inHigh hedges complaints: prevention and cure- https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/high-hedges-complaints-prevention-and-cure. This document should be consulted for more detailed guidance.

Councils can only consider a complaint if it satisfies the following criteria:

• It must relate to a high hedge as defined in the Act;

• The hedge must be on land that is owned by someone other than the complainant;

• It must be affecting a domestic property;

• The complaint must be made on the grounds that the height of the hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of the domestic property in question; and

• It must be brought by the owner or occupier of that property.

What can be considered as is a High Hedge?

A high hedge is defined in the Act as

"so much of a barrier to light or access as is formed wholly or predominantly 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. But, for these purposes, a line of evergreens or semi-evergreens is not to be regarded as forming a barrier to light or access if gaps significantly affect its overall effect as such a barrier at heights of more than 2 metres above ground level"

In considering whether a particular hedge can be considered; the following questions should be asked:

  • Is the hedge - or the portion that is causing problems - made up of a line of two or more trees or shrubs?

  • Is it mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen?

  • Is it more than 2 metres above ground level?

  • Even though there are gaps in the foliage or between the trees, is the hedge still capable of obstructing light or views?

If you have answered 'yes' to all these questions, it is likely to be a high hedge for the purposes of the Act.

If some parts of the hedge, but not the whole hedge, meets this definition they can be considered as individual hedges.

The following additional information might be helpful in considering the answers to the questions set out above.

Line of two or more trees or shrubs

  • A complaint cannot be made about single trees or shrubs, whatever their size.

  • A tree or shrub that has multiple stems, all growing from the same trunk or root plate, remains a single tree or shrub and so falls outside the scope of the High hedges procedure. This even though the multiple stems might result in a considerable spread.

  • The two or more trees or shrubs do not have to form a straight line. As long as they are roughly in line.

  • It is unlikely, therefore, that the definition will include groups of trees, copses or small woodlands - unless they have a row of trees bounding them.

'Mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen'

  • The High Hedges procedure includes Leyland cypress or conifers, but it also includes other evergreen trees or shrubs, such as laurel.

  • It does not include climbing plants, such as ivy, or bamboo - which is classed as a grass.

  • A semi-evergreen is not separately defined but normally means that the hedge retains some live foliage throughout the year. Depending on geographical location, this could include privet. The further north, the more likely that a privet hedge will lose its leaves over the winter and so would not be covered by this definition.

  • Beech and hornbeam hedges are excluded. Although they may retain some foliage for most of the year, this is brown and dead.

  • A hedge does not have to comprise wholly evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs to fall within the definition.

  • The Act applies to hedges that are predominantly evergreen or semi evergreen. Whether a particular hedge is mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen is a matter of judgement. It does not necessarily require a set number or proportion of the trees or shrubs in the hedge to meet this description.

  • The effect of including predominantly evergreen or semi-evergreen hedges is to bring mixed hedges - that include some deciduous species - within the scope of the definition. Deciduous trees that are located within a predominantly evergreen hedge might be the subject of a complaint under the Act.

'More than 2 metres above ground level'

  • The 2-metre height should be measured from the ground where the hedge is growing - that will usually be on the hedge owner's side. Even if the property affected is on a lower (or higher) level than the land where the hedge is situated, the 2 metres should still be measured from the ground where the hedge is growing.

  • Ground level means the natural level of the ground where the hedge is situated. Normally, therefore, any measurements should be taken from the ground at the base of the trunks or stems of the trees or shrubs in the hedge.

'Barrier to light or access'

  • If there are any gaps that occur above the 2-metre height of the hedge, making the hedge a barrier to light or access then the high hedge procedure will apply. This is consistent with the fact that complaints cannot be brought against 2 metre high hedges. It effectively takes anything below this height outside the scope of the Act.

  • Whether a particular hedge meets these criteria is a matter of judgement. The key question is whether - even though there might be gaps in the foliage or between the trees or shrubs - the hedge is capable of obstructing light or views. But, if individual trees or shrubs are so widely spaced, or the gaps in the foliage are so extensive that it is possible to see what lies behind them, then the hedge might fall outside the scope of The Act.

Each case must be assessed individually, on its merits.

Location of the Hedge

The hedge must be located on land that is owned by someone other than the complainant. Otherwise, there is no restriction on where the hedge is situated. It is the effect of the hedge on a domestic property that is important, rather than where it is located.

The offending hedge does not have to be growing in someone else's garden. It could, for instance, be on parkland that backs onto a garden, or on commercial premises.

Grounds of Complaint

You can complain if the height of the hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of a domestic property. In making a complaint to the Council must, therefore, you must show that:

• The problems with the hedge are related to its height; and

• They are adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of the domestic property.

Height

  • The complaint can only relate to problems experienced because the hedge is too tall.

  • Problems associated with the width of the hedge will not normally be considered.

  • The effect of roots are specifically excluded

Reasonable enjoyment of property

  • The hedge must be adversely affecting the complainant's reasonable enjoyment of their property.

  • Grounds of complaint must, therefore, relate to the impact of the hedge on the complainant's residential property.

The Council will determine complaints based on the "reasonable" enjoyment of the property in the particular circumstances. This means the Council must take account of all relevant factors, including the views of the hedge owner and the contribution that the hedge makes to the wider amenity of the area. They will not look solely at the complainant's concerns.

The Council will therefore:

1. Assess the impact of the hedge on the enjoyment that a reasonable person might expect from their home and garden, thereby introducing a degree of objectivity to the decision-making process. This may differ from the complainant's expectations.

2. Look at each case on its particular merits

Potential complainants should have regard to these points in framing their grounds of complaint and substantiating their case. Further information on how Councils will assess whether a high hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of a property is in Chapter 5: Assessing and Weighing the Evidence. This should help complainants to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their case before they submit their complaint.

 

The following are links to Government Legislation and Guidance.

All DCLG documents:

https://www.planningportal.co.uk/info/200130/common_projects/29/high_hedges

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/high-hedges

Individual Documents

1. Over the garden hedge

2. High hedges: complaining to the council

3.High hedges: appealing against the council's decision

4. Hedge height and light loss

5.High hedges complaints: prevention and cure

6.Matters relating to high hedges: notes to local authorities

  1. Resolving neighbour disputes relating to high hedges trees and boundaries

     

 

 

Updated: 10 Apr 2018
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