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High hedge complaint

Once you have tried all other ways to settle your dispute with your neighbour regarding an evergreen hedge, which is over two metres in height, you can make a complaint. You will need to submit detailed forms, supporting evidence, other documentation and a fee of £600.

Our role, which is set by central government under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 (the Act), is not to mediate or negotiate between you and the hedge owner, but to decide whether "the hedge is adversely affecting your reasonable enjoyment of your property". In doing so, we must take account of all relevant factors and must strike a balance between the competing interests of you and the hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.

A high hedge is defined in the Act as a barrier to light or access as is formed wholly or predominately by a line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs and rises to a height of more than two metres above ground level. Cypresses like leylandii will be included, as will other conifers, yew, laurel, box and other evergreens/semi-evergreens.

The Act will only offer control over hedges that affect domestic properties, which are defined as a dwelling or any associated garden or yard. Individual trees and shrubs are not included in this legislation.

If we consider the circumstances justify it, a formal notice will be issued to the hedge owner. It will set out what they must do to the hedge to remedy the problem and set a deadline date. It is an offence if the hedge owner fails to carry out the works required by the authority. There is a possible fine of up to £1,000.

Before complaining

If you have been trying to resolve your concerns for a long time or if you do not get on with your neighbour, you should consider mediation.

Community mediation is particularly effective in this type of dispute. It involves an independent and impartial person (the mediator) helping those in dispute to work together to reach a settlement. The mediator's job is not to make a decision. Instead, they help all concerned to understand each other's point of view, without apportioning blame.

From there, the participants can move forward to think about how they could put matters right and to agree a plan of action. If mediation is to work, people must go into it willingly.

Local mediation services are available through the National Mediation Helpline.

It is strongly recommended that before making a formal complaint you read government information on high hedges and complaining to councils.

How to complain

When mediation and negotiation has failed, you may then make a formal complaint to the council. You should complete a High Hedges Complaint Form (PDF/74KB/7 Pages).

Send the completed form, fee and relevant plans, documents, correspondence and photographs to us.

We recommend that you keep a copy of your complaint form and all accompanying documentation for your records.

If the hedge affects more than one property, each owner/occupier of the affected properties must submit a separate complaint, together with a separate fee.

Fee

We have set the current fee at £600. The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 states that complainant(s) must pay a fee to the council with the complaint.

Payment of a fee encourages people to try to settle these disputes amicably, making sure that involvement of the council really is a last resort. A fee also helps to deter frivolous or vexatious complaints. It is common practice for local authorities to charge a fee for a service which is likely to benefit an individual (in this case, the complainant) rather than the community in general.

The fee has been assessed to ensure the cost of the work involved in providing the service is met and the set fee will be reassessed periodically. We will not normally refund a fee, although we do have this discretion in special circumstances. 

It is important to understand the way the legislation works. It allows us to review these cases, as an independent and impartial third party. We are not investigating any offence as none has been committed, even if a complainant wins their case.

The legislation does not deal in innocent or guilty parties. As a result, the fee is a payment for a service, not a penalty.

Next steps

Once we are satisfied that a complaint meets the legal tests, we will invite your neighbour to set out their case. When we have both sides of the story, a council officer will visit the site to look at the hedge and its surroundings.

The officer will also get other facts that they need to help them decide your complaint. They might, for example, measure the size of your garden or how far the hedge is from windows in your home.

Once we have all this information, the council will weigh it all up. We will decide whether the hedge adversely affects the reasonable enjoyment of your home and its garden or yard and what, if anything, should be done.

If we decide action is necessary, we will issue a formal ‘remedial notice’ to your neighbour and give you a copy. This notice sets out what must be done to the hedge and when it must be done by. It may require your neighbour to keep the hedge trimmed to a certain height.

There is no set deadline for us to make a decision. It will take time for us to get a statement from your neighbour and arrange to visit the site. We will deal with the complaint as soon as possible.

If you are worried because you haven’t heard anything, please contact us to check progress.