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High hedge legislation

Information about what a high hedge is, what the legislation is, common myths, resolving a high hedge problem, getting guidance documents and forms, fees, action that the council can take, how to appeal and who to contact.

What is the legislation?

The council has the power, under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 and the High Hedges Regulations 2005, to deal with complaints about high hedges which affect residential properties.

What is a high hedge?

To be covered by this legislation a hedge needs, as a result of its height, to be acting as a barrier to light or access to the extent that a person's reasonable enjoyment of their property is being adversely affected.

The hedge must be made up of all or a majority of evergreen or semi-evergreen species, over 2 metres (6.5 feet) in height and formed of a line of two or more trees or shrubs.

Examples of evergreen species regularly used in hedging are: leylandii, holly, yew and laurel. 

An example of a semi-evergreen is privet which does not lose its leaves in winter in this part of the UK. Species such as beech which retain dead leaves over winter do not meet the definition, nor do species such as ivy which are not self-supporting. 

The hedge must also impact on a residential property (house, bungalow, flat etc) or part of a property in more than one use, which is being used for residential purposes (such as a flat over a shop).

A hedge may also affect more than one property and it is always worthwhile discussing the matter with other affected neighbours who may also wish to approach the hedge owner separately or jointly or be party to a joint application.

What are the common myths?

It is not illegal to own a high hedge nor, despite the principal legislation under which these controls were enacted, will you receive an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO) because your hedge is too high. Another common misunderstanding in this legislation is that people must reduce hedges down to 2 metres (6.5 feet) in height.

What is my common law right?

If a tree or hedge located on neighbouring land overhangs your property, you can exercise your common law right to prune any overhanging branches, or encroaching roots back to the boundary, providing you do not destabilise the tree or hedge, or damage it unduly.

You must not go beyond the boundary without the owner's consent and any material removed from the tree or hedge should be offered back to the owner.  

What are the first steps to take to resolve a high hedge problem?

The legislation requires the complainant(s) to have attempted to resolve the high hedge issue by negotiation with the hedge owner(s).

This can be by verbal discussion or by letter, however it must include two or more attempts to secure a solution before a formal 'application for investigation'  can be made.

Many people affected by high hedges are reluctant to do this, often due to poor neighbour relations or through not wanting to upset their neighbours.

This is, however, a necessary part of the process and must be undertaken.

Should these contacts not resolve the matter an application for investigation can be made to the council.

Where can I access guidance documents and forms for an 'application for investigation'?

The council has produced a 'High Hedge Pack' which consists of the application form and guidance documents which must be read before completing the application form. 

High Hedge Pack - Application Form and Guidance Notes (pdf 232kb opens in new window)

Further information produced by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) can be accessed through the following links:

GOV.UK - High hedges - complaining to the council (external website) 

Over the garden hedge (external website)

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) website contains detailed publications which explain the legislation in more detail and provide guidance for use in considering high hedge cases. The two most useful documents can be accessed through the links below. 

High hedges complaints: Prevention and cure (external website)

Hedge height and light loss (external website)

The second of these documents 'Hedge height and light loss' contains a spreadsheet which allows you to insert the details from your property to assess the outcome of any potential case.

It should be stressed that in some cases this may not be easy to do for a person who does not have specialised or professional knowledge of a subject, and any results should be only taken to be an indication.

It may also be possible for officers to work through this with you on the telephone, if you are able to provide the dimensions required for your property.   

Is there a fee attached to the submission of an 'application for investigation'?

There is a fee involved for making such an application and details of the fees involved and concessions available can be found in the council's pack (in the pdf document "Application form and guidance document").

Currently, the standard fee for a high hedge application is £384.

What if there is wildlife in the hedge?

Birds

Many wildlife habitats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 making it an offence to kill, injure or take wild birds, their young, their eggs or nests. 

Non-urgent major tree work involving tree removal/reduction and hedge cutting operations should not normally be undertaken during the bird nesting/breeding season, which is considered to be from 1 March to 31 August, subject to the species and the season. 

If any proposed works is scheduled to take place in the main bird breeding season the potential impact on nesting birds and the risk of committing an offence is increased.  In such an instance, therefore, the council would advise that a survey for active bird nests should be carried out.  If active nests are found works should be avoided until the breeding attempt has ended.

RSPB - Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981- Section 1 (external website)

Bats

Bats are European Protected Species and are protected by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). 

It is an offence to kill, injure, or take, any bat.  It is also an offence to interfere with places used by bats for shelter or protection, or to intentionally disturb bats occupying such places.  The presence of bats or bat roosts is not always obvious and it is recommended that you consult a qualified bat surveyor. 

The Forestry Commission (external website) contains more details and guidance. 

Read more about protecting animals and plants.

How do I report a wildlife offence?

If you suspect an offence is/has been committed in relation to wild birds or a protected species then report the incident to your local police force.

Ask for the case to be investigated by a Wildlife Crime Officer (WCO) if possible and ask for an incident number so you can go back to them if needed. 

If the offence is on-going report it to the police by telephoning 101.

What action can the council take?

If your attempts to resolve the high hedge problem are not successful you can submit an 'application for investigation'to the council. 

On receiving your application the council will assess the situation from your property, make contact with the hedge owner and do the same from their side.

A report will then be produced, along with a decision, giving the council’s findings in the matter. 

This decision may include the service of a 'remedial notice', if one is considered necessary, making the hedge owner reduce the height of the hedge within a specified time, and to ensure that the hedge is maintained thereafter below a specified height.

Can I appeal if I am not happy with the council's decision?

Both parties to a high hedge case can appeal the council's decision. This will delay implementation of any 'remedial notice' until the appeal is decided.

The Planning Inspectorate deal with high hedge appeals and information on this would be given with the decision. Useful information is given in a booklet entitled "High hedges: appealing against the council’s decision".

The link below accesses the booklet:

High Hedges - Appealing against the council's decision (external website)       

Appeal forms can be accessed from the following link.

Appeal forms (external website)

Who do I contact if the hedge is owned by the council?

The council owns and controls a number of hedges growing on council-owned land including parks, school grounds and on public highways and it carries out maintenance and hedge planting where appropriate. 

If the hedge is on council-owned land you will need to discuss your concerns with the council's Streetscene services.

For further information about cutting, please visit 'Streetscene' – Tree and Hedge cutting.

How do I deal with a hedge causing damage to property?

If you believe a hedge is causing structural damage to your property, the first step you should take is to contact your buildings insurer.  If the damage is not covered by insurance or you don’t wish to contact your insurance company, you should contact a structural engineer and arboriculturalist to determine whether the hedge is implicated in the damage.

You or the hedge owner must establish if there are restrictions on carrying out work to the hedge such as a planning condition before any work is carried out. In all cases if the trees are not in your ownership, you should first approach the owner to see if they will carry out any works to resolve the problem.  If the owner is unwilling to act you may wish to exercise your common law right or seek your own legal advice.

How do I check if there are any other height restrictions on my hedge?

If the site on which the hedge stands has received planning permission for development, you may wish to check that there are no planning conditions restricting work to the hedge. 

If you have any queries in this respect, please contact the council’s Development Control Section by:

Email: beverley.dc@eastriding.gov.uk
Tel: (01482) 393792 and specify that you require a planning condition check.

You may also wish to check the deeds for your property as sometimes restrictive covenants are imposed.

If I require further information on high hedge legislation, who do I contact?

You can contact us by:

Email: treesandlandscape@eastriding.gov.uk
Tel: (01482) 393726 for any other queries.

Last Updated: Thursday, 10 August 2017