The Act requires people to have taken 'all reasonable steps' to try to settle their hedge dispute for themselves before making a formal complaint to the local council.The legislation came into force on the 1st June 2005.
Basis of the law
The law governing the procedures for dealing with complaints must relate to a 'high hedge', which is defined in the Act as being:"so much of a barrier to light or access as is formed wholly or predominantly by a line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs and rises to a height of more than 2 metres above ground level".When considering whether a particular hedge can be the subject of a complaint under the Act, the following questions need to be addressed:
is the hedge comprised wholly or predominantly of evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs ?
are there two or more trees or shrubs in it and are these roughly in line ?
is it over 2 metres in height ?
does the hedge act, to some degree, as a barrier to light or access - even though it might have gaps in it ?
If the answer to all these questions is yes, then it is a 'high hedge' for the purposes of the Act.
Who can register a complaint?
A person can bring a complaint under the Act only if a 'domestic property' is affected. The Act defines domestic property as 'a dwelling or any associated garden or yard'. The garden or yard does not have to be attached to the dwelling, as long as it is linked legally, rather than physically, with the property.A complaint cannot be brought under the Act if a hedge is affecting a garage, barn, summerhouse, shed or other outbuilding used for incidental domestic purposes.
Grounds of complaint
Anyone making a complaint to the council must show that:
the problems with the hedge are related to its height; and
it is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of their own property.
This could include obstruction of daylight and sunlight, jointly or as separate issues, as well as a potential loss of view or outlook. In addition, someone could bring a complaint under the Act if the neighbouring high hedge affects their own garden, making it feel claustrophobic. Impact on growing plants can also be considered, provided that the damage was attributable to the height of the hedge.According to the Act, the following factors are not relevant to a high hedge complaint:
fears that the hedge will break or fall
that the effect of the hedge have led to health problems
that other hedges in the area are maintained at a lower height
that the hedge was there before the affected property was built or before the complainant moved into it
that the roots of the hedge are affecting neighbouring land or property.
Making a formal complaint
Complaining to the Council should be the last resort. Mediation should have been attempted before making a formal complaint. Please contact the Mediation Service should you seek support.You should read the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's leaflet: High hedges: complaining to the Council before making a complaint as this gives more detailed guidance on the procedure. This leaflet is available from the Council offices or the ODPM website.Before making a complaint, you will need to fill out the Council's high hedges pre-complaint checklist and have answered yes to all the questions.
For the Council to consider your complaint, you will need to complete a form and pay a fee of £335.
Making a decision
The Council will aim to deal with your complaint within 13 weeks. High Hedge complaints will be dealt with by the Enforcement section of the Planning and Community Development Directorate.