Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 gives local authorities powers to deal with complaints about high hedges.
From 1st June 2005, provided they have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving their hedge dispute, people are able to take their complaint about a neighbour's evergreen hedge to their local authority - Adur or Worthing Councils.
The role of the local authority is not to mediate or negotiate between the complainant and the hedge owner but to adjudicate on whether - in the words of the Act:
“The hedge is adversely affecting the complainant's reasonable enjoyment of their property”.
If they consider the circumstances justify it the local authority will 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.
It is strongly recommended that everyone contemplating making a formal complaint reads the following Government leaflets before doing anything else.
The following leaflets are available:
- Settling problems amicably, 'Over the garden hedge' guidance - on the GOV.UK website
- When to involve the Council, 'High hedges: complaining to the council' - on the GOV.UK website
Our advice is to make every attempt to resolve the problem now, before the need for exhaustive and expensive formal legal procedures.
Fees - and how to lodge a complaint
The Fee for this service at Adur & Worthing Councils is £300.00.
If you wish to make a high hedge complaint - first read the guidance below:
Then if you want to lodge a complaint please use the form below:
- High Hedges complaints form - to type into (40KB)
- High Hedges complaints form - to hand write (76KB)
Then return the completed form with your payment and relevant attachments (photos, plans, copies of correspondence, etc) to the address shown on the bottom of the form.
Both the complainant and the hedge owner will have a right to appeal against the local authority decision to the planning inspectorate.
Failure to comply with a notice to reduce/remove a hedge could result in a fine of up to £1,000. The local authority would also have the power to carry out works itself and recover costs from the hedge owner.
Mediation can help resolve a high hedge dispute. You can get help through the West Sussex Mediation Service (WSMS) on 01403 258900 or 01403 257800 or by visiting the West Sussex Mediation Service website.
Below are answers to commonly asked high hedge questions and advice on the role of the council in high hedge disputes.
Questions and answers
Is there a height that trees and hedges are allowed to reach?
No. The trees are on private property for which the owner is responsible to maintain as they choose.
Can I cut back branches that overhang into my garden?
Usually, yes. However, you should inform the owner of the tree that you will be doing this and offer to dispose of the branches yourself. Always check that the tree is not protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) or that you are not in a Conservation Area before cutting back a tree. If it is protected in any way, you will need to apply for permission from the Council. (This also applies to Council owned trees).
If I make a complaint will the hedge be reduced to 2 metres?
No. A justifiable complaint will be assessed and considered on its individual merits; weighing up all the issues. Any recommendation of height is dependent on many factors, such as distance from property, orientation, specie and age.
My neighbour's single coniferous or deciduous tree blocks my light, is this covered under the legislation?
The minimum requirement is for two evergreen trees in a row. A row of more than two trees needs to be predominately evergreen.
My house is dark due to my neighbour's trees, what can I do?
The legislation is a last resort. The emphasis is on you to resolve your issues by contacting the owner of the trees, negotiating with them and reaching a compromise. The legislation does not guarantee access to uninterrupted light.
Why should the person who is suffering the hedge problems have to pay the Council to intervene?
A fee may help 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.
But the complainant is the innocent party in this dispute.
The legislation allows local authorities to review these cases, as independent and impartial third parties. As a result, the fee is a payment for a service - not a penalty.
Can I reclaim the fee from the hedge owner?
There is no procedure under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 for the complainant to obtain re-payment of the fee, either from the local authority or from the hedge owner.
For further enquiries please contact:
- Planning (Development Management)
- Tel: 01903 221065
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Page last updated: 09 September 2021