In accordance with Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, a hedge is defined as ‘two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs standing in a line, at a height of over two metres above ground level.’
Any owner/occupier of a residential property affected by a hedge can complain to their local Council, providing that they meet the following criteria:
- It is an evergreen or semi-evergreen hedge of two or more trees or shrubs standing in a row
- The hedge is over two metres high
- The neighbours have tried to solve the matter amicably
Cutting the tall stories down to size
- The legislation does not require all hedges to be cut down to a height of 2 metres
- You do not have to get permission to grow a hedge above 2 metres
- When a hedge grows over 2 metres, the local authority does not automatically take action, unless a justifiable complaint is made
- If you complain to your local authority, it does not follow automatically that they will order your neighbour to reduce the height of their hedge. They have to weigh up all the issues and consider each case on its merits
- The legislation does not cover single or deciduous trees
- The local authority cannot require the hedge to be removed
- The legislation does not guarantee access to uninterrupted light
- There is no provision to serve an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO) in respect of high hedge complaints.
The High Hedge Act
Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, which gave Local Authorities powers to deal with complaints about high hedges came into operation in England on 1 June 2005.
From 1 June 2005, provided you have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving the hedge dispute, you will be able to take your complaint about a neighbour's evergreen hedge to Torbay Council.
The role of the Local Authority is not to mediate or negotiate between you and the hedge owner but to adjudicate on whether - in the words of the Act - the hedge is adversely affecting your reasonable enjoyment of your property.
The government indicates that referral to the Local Authority is a last resort, and that a fee to cover the actual costs of processing the complaint, including any costs associated with subsequent appeals is therefore fair and appropriate.
The government has determined that the level of the fee should be set by the Local Authority.
Guidance in The Regulatory Impact Assessment: High hedges, implementing Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, indicates that actual costs would be in the order of £400. The fee to lodge and have the complaint determined will therefore be £400. Please note that if your complaint is made invalid Torbay Council’s policy is to retain a £50.00 administration charge.
Exemptions from Payment of Fee
If you are currently receiving Job Seekers Allowance, Housing/Council Tax Benefit, or any other means tested benefit, and can produce evidence of this, you are entitled to 50% concession, giving a total fee of £200.
The fee is payable on lodging the complaint, unless paid the complaint will not be entertained.
Making the complaint
If you wish to make a formal complaint about your neighbour's high hedge, you will need to write to us at the above address.
You must have followed all of the guidance within the Communities and Local Government's leaflet Over the garden hedge (previously known as the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister).
For your information, you may want to look at the following documents produced:
Torbay Council cannot negotiate or mediate between you and your neighbour. A local community mediation service might be able to help you.
Involving the Council is the last resort if you really cannot agree a solution. We, as the Council, can refuse to intervene if we think you haven't done everything you reasonably could to settle your dispute.
We will take account of all relevant factors to strike a balance between the competing interests of the complainant and hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.
If we consider that the circumstances justify it, we can issue a formal notice to the hedge owner which will set out what they must do to the hedge to remedy the problem, and when by. Failure to carry out the works required by the authority is an offence which, on prosecution, could lead to a fine of up to £1,000.
Please note that submission of a high hedge application does not automatically guarantee that a formal notice will be served. The Council can decide that the hedge is not adversely affect the complainant and no further action may be taken.
More information about the legislation can be found at Department for Communities & Local Government website , or you can contact them by writing to the following address:
Department for Communities and Local Government
London SW1E 5DU
London SW1E 5DU
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tel: 01803 207977
- Fax: 01803 207981