High Hedges are dealt with under Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 and allows councils to resolve disputes between the needs to two competing neighbours over a high hedge. High hedges are described as an evergreen or semi evergreen line of two or more trees, at least 2m in height and are capable of blocking out light. There is a common misconception that growing a hedge above 2m in height is illegal. This is in fact incorrect - there is no legal maximum height for a hedge.
If you are suffering with a high hedge you can ask the council to intervene provided that you have first demonstrated that all other means to resolve the dispute have been exhausted as council intervention is a last resort. There are also specific criteria that must be fulfilled before requesting council involvement. Further advice can be found on the GOV.UK website.
The role of the council is not to mediate or negotiate between neighbours but to adjudicate on whether a high hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of a property. When dealing with high hedge disputes the council’s role must be one of impartiality. We cannot therefore discuss the specifics of any case prior to a decision being made otherwise this could potentially be seen as favouring one side.
If the circumstances justify it, the council can issue a formal notice called a remedial notice to the owner of a hedge. The remedial notice will set out (what must be done in order to rectify the situation; usually to lower the hedge within a certain period of time. Failure to carry out the works required by the council is an offence which, on prosecution, could lead to a fine of up to £1,000 plus costs.
In order to qualify under the Act a hedge must consist of a line of evergreen or predominantly evergreen trees, at least 2m tall and which form a barrier that blocks out light. There are other rules that govern whether you can complain and these can be found on the GOV.UK website
Before asking the council to adjudicate on a high hedge dispute complainants must first show that they have attempted to resolve the issue with the hedge owner. So if the property is tenanted you should find out who owns the property. This can usually be done via a land registry search.
Complainants must also show the council that they have attempted to reasonably resolve the dispute. The council considers it reasonable that at least 3 letters (or emails) within a four month period sent to the hedge owner is reasonable.
Complaint application forms and further advice can be found at the links on this page. Please read carefully all the relevant guidance as errors or omissions in the complaint could significantly delay the process.
Bradford Council charges a fee for providing this service. The fee is intended to encourage people to try to settle private disputes amicably, making sure that involving the council really is a last resort. The fee is also intended to help deter frivolous or vexatious complaints.
The council will undertake a calculation based on government guidance to calculate what is called the “action hedge height”. This is the height the calculations suggest after which the hedge is likely to be blocking out too much light. The council will then consider the representations by both neighbours and various other factors.
A complaint about a high hedge will not automatically mean that the council will take action against a hedge owner. The council will in fact will take a number of factors into account and will seek to strike a balance between the competing interests of both neighbours. For instance as well as the complainant’s representations we must also consider the submissions made by hedge owner who may very well have strong reasons for growing their hedge tall.
The process can be complex and there is a requirement for the council to ensure that all relevant parties have had a chance to comment on the issues. Government guidance with regards to timescales indicate that councils should not seek to determine complaints within 12 weeks. We therefore seek to make a formal decision within 6 months.
If a notice has been breached the council has a number of options available to it including taking court action against the hedge owner. Please contact the Trees Team on 01274 434297 quoting the case reference number and we will investigate the matter further.
The Hedgerow Regulations provide important protection by prohibiting the removal of most countryside hedgerows (or parts of them) without first notifying the local planning authority (LPA). ‘Removal’ includes acts which could result in the destruction of a hedgerow.
You can download a guide to the Hedgerow Regulations (4.4MB) covering both legal considerations and good practice. You can also download a short summary of the Regulations (0.5MB). Please note there was an amendment to the importance criteria 5(a), Part II, Schedule 1 in 2002.