Concerns about the potentially severe effects that high hedges can have on domestic property led the Government to include provisions for dealing with the problem within Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. These provisions came into effect on 01 June 2005.
Householders who believe that a high hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of their property may now ask the District Council to investigate the situation. If the Council is satisfied that the complaint is justified, it may order the owner of the hedge to reduce it in height, but not below 2m in height.
NB: In most cases where a reduction in height is required the height of the hedge will remain significantly higher than 2m.
A high hedge is defined in the Act as a line of 2 or more mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs which are over 2m in height and which obstruct light or access.
The problem caused by a high hedge must be caused by the height of the hedge, for example taking light from a garden or from the windows of a dwelling. Damage to property caused by the roots of a hedge does not count.
The Council will only investigate a high hedge complaint if the complainant can prove that he or she has taken all reasonable steps to resolve the problem by negotiation with the hedge owner since 01 June 2005. If negotiations took place but failed before 01 June 2005, a fresh attempt to negotiate must be made. The threat of investigation by the Council may make the owner of the hedge more inclined to take action.
The Council employs a consultant to investigate high hedge complaints. If the Council decides to investigate a high hedge complaint, it will arrange for the consultant to visit the complainant's property and assess the impact of the hedge. This will involve measuring the height of the hedge and the size of the garden, looking at the relationships between the hedge, the garden and the house, and working out the orientation of the property. He will also consider the issue from the hedge owner's point of view. He will then submit a report with recommendations to the Council.
If the Council decides that action needs to be taken, it may serve a Remedial Notice on the owner of the hedge. This will specify the action which the Council decides is necessary to deal with the problem, for example, by reducing the hedge to a specified height (which cannot be less than 2m) within a specified period and subsequently maintaining it at that height by regular pruning.
The Council may, however, decide that the hedge is not affecting the reasonable enjoyment of the property and action is not required.
Whatever the outcome of the investigation, both the complainant and the hedge owner have a right of appeal against the Council's decision. A Planning Inspector who will consider representations submitted in writing by the parties will hear appeals.
Failure by a hedge owner to comply with a Remedial Notice is an offence which, on prosecution, could result in a fine of up to £1000.
MAKING A COMPLAINT ABOUT A HIGH HEDGE
Before you make a complaint, you are strongly urged to read two Government leaflets:
If you still wish to make a formal complaint about a high hedge having read the above information, you must complete a High Hedge Complaint Form. This form and guidance notes can be obtained from the Council's Planning Services Division, or can be downloaded below.
HIGH HEDGE COMPLAINT FEE
The Council has decided to charge a fee for high hedge complaints. The fee is £500, with a reduced fee of £250 for those receiving Housing or Council Tax Benefit. This fee is payable by the complainant and is non-returnable if the Council investigates the complaint, regardless of the outcome. There is no charge for an appeal against the Council's decision.
For further information about high hedges and complaints to the Council about high hedges, please contact the Council's Planning Services Division:
Tel: 01444 477458, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Development Management, Planning Division, Mid Sussex District Council, Oaklands, Oaklands Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 1SS. Fax: 01444 477461 Email: email@example.com