After many years of lobbying, the Government finally passed into law in November 2003, legislation to deal with the problem of excessively high evergreen hedges that have blighted a lot of people's residential amenity for many years.
Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 has been enacted to come into force from the 1st June 2005 by Statutory Instrument No 710 (C.31) 2005. This will be the official start of the new system and the new powers given to Councils.
From this date, provided you have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving any hedge dispute, you will be able to forward your complaint to the Council by submitting detailed forms, support evidence and other documentation and a fee of £350.
The role of the Council is not to mediate or negotiate between you and your neighbour, but to adjudicate as a neutral "third party" on whether - in the words of the Act - the hedge is "adversely affecting the complainant's reasonable enjoyment of their property". In doing so, the Council must take account of all relevant factors and must strike a balance between the competing interests of the complainant and the hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.
If the Council consider the circumstances justify it, we can dismiss the complaint application or issue a formal notice of remediation to the hedge owner, which would set out what they must do to remedy the prescribed problem. In most cases this would amount to a reduction in height to no less than 2 metres (6ft 6ins). The Notice would also set a time limit by when it should be carried out and that the maximum height is maintained thereafter. Failure to carry out the works required by the Council is an offence, which on prosecution, could lead to a fine of up to £1000 and so much per day thereafter. The Council ultimately has the power to carry out the works in default of the hedge owner and recover our costs.
Prior to the Council being involved and formal applications being made, potential complainants need to carry out exhaustive actions themselves, including collecting detailed evidence and in particular attempting to resolve the matter amicably with their neighbours.
It is strongly recommended that everyone contemplating making a formal complaint reads two particular ODPM leaflets before doing anything else:
- Over the Garden Hedge - advice on appropriate hedge boundary treatment and agreement with your neighbour
- High Hedges: complaining to the Council - advice on the various processes and stages that complainants and complainees will have to go through in any eventual dealings with the Council.
These are now available at Tameside Libraries, Customer Service Centres and from Planning and Building Control
The government have also produced - "High Hedges Complaints - Prevention and Cure" which will guide Councils on how to run the system and "Hedge Height and Light Loss" is a useful technical document that explains how to measure the detrimental effect of a high hedge.
In Tameside Council, the High Hedges Legislation will be the responsibility of the Planning & Building Control Service through delegated powers from the Council to the Head of Planning. It has been decided that the enforcement section will lead on the implementation. Their contact number is 0161 342 3108. In general, a formal complaint will be dealt with in a similar way to a planning application.
Our advice at this time is to make every attempt to resolve the problem now, before the need for exhaustive and expensive formal legal procedures.
Even though a dispute may have been going on for many years, new evidence of a serious attempt at amicable resolution will be required to validate any formal complaint application. Either speak civilly to your neighbour or write a polite letter pointing out the advantages of resolution now, as the legislation is imminently to be brought into power. Even if you can't agree wholly on an appropriate solution, you might agree to take the matter to independent mediation as recommended by the Government and "Tameside Mediates" (0161 339 1190 Mon - Fri 9am - 5pm) is willing to take referrals if both sides agree. For evidence of attempts to resolve the matter it is better in written form and should be dated no earlier than three months before submission of the complaint form.
Important facts to know:
- A hedge is defined as 2 or more shrubs/trees in a line in reasonable close proximity - the legislation does not deal with single tree issues.
- Only evergreen or semi-evergreen shrubs/trees will be covered by the legislation - this could include holly or privet but not beech, hornbeam, ivy or bamboo.
- Complaint applications can only be made against hedges wholly owned by another party.
- Complaint applications can only be made where the property affected is mainly residential in use and where you are an owner or tenant.
- Complaint applications can only be made against hedges over 2 metres in height (measured from natural ground level)
- All applications will require a fee. Tameside has now set this at £350. Councils have the discretion to charge whatever they think appropriate. Applications have to be validated prior to acceptance for processing, and this will require all the appropriate documentation and evidence of correspondence, and alleged harm and the fee and relevant forms filled in. Copies of all documents have to be sent to the neighbour.
- There are appeal rights to the Planning Inspectorate for all parties involved throughout each of the decision making stages except validation.
- Applications and Remediation Notices and Court Orders will appear as Land Charges on any search for property sale.
The official Tameside Complaint Form 162.26 KB and associated guidelines for completing the Complaint Form 48.16 KB can be downloaded from this page or by contacting the enforcement team on 0161 342 3108.
If you need technical advice in the interim regarding definitions or preparing for the complaint form please contact us.
The contact information below may be used to enquire about High Hedges legislation. Please note that we are unable to answer enquires that relate to issues outside of Tameside.