High hedges introduction
On 1 June 2005 the council was given new powers to deal with nuisance high hedges under Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003.
How will the new legislation operate?
The Act allows an owner or occupant of a domestic property to make a complaint if they consider that the `reasonable enjoyment- of their property is being adversely affected by the presence of a high hedge growing on a neighbouring property. This person is referred to as the complainant.
What is a high hedge?
For a high hedge to conform to the criteria given in the legislation it must:
- act as a barrier to access (including access to light and views);
- be formed wholly or predominantly by a line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs; and
- rise to a height of more than 2 metres above ground level.
A line of evergreens may not be regarded as forming a barrier if the existence of gaps significantly reduces its overall effect.
How are complaints registered?
The complainant will complete a complaint form and send it to the council. As part of the application he or she will have to show that they have taken all reasonable attempts to resolve the dispute before involving us. We will not normally accept an application where there is not substantiated evidence that the negotiation process has been pursued.
The complainant must notify the following people:
- anyone else with an interest in the property affected by the hedge; and
- The owner and /or occupier of the property where the hedge is growing .
A fee must be sent with the application form which will contribute towards the cost of administering the complaint. Our current fees schedule can be found here.
How will the application be dealt with?
We must decide whether the hedge is adversely affecting the complainant’s reasonable enjoyment of his/her property. In order that we can make this judgement, we will take account of all relevant factors and strike a balance between the interests of the complainant, the hedge owner and the interests of the wider community. As part of this process our High Hedges Officer will make an appointment to see the hedge from both sides and will take various measurements. Other consultations may also be involved in the decision-making process. A prime factor in determining any complaint will be the long term health of the hedge. Government advice indicates that it would be inappropriate to require a reduction in the height of a hedge to a level that would result in its eventual death.
We will make a formal written decision and send a copy to anyone having an interest in the property affected by the hedge and the owner and/or occupier of the site where the hedge is growing.
Any information supplied to us in support of a formal high hedges complaint will be available to any other parties who request access to this information.
See below for further information on resolving disputes (high hedges forms section).
Fee and refund guidance
Your complaint form must be accompanied by the correct fee.
The current fee can be found here. Please make your cheque payable to South Oxfordshire District Council.
If a complaint is not accompanied by the correct fee, we will not register it or take any further action.
On receipt of a correct fee, we will check the documentation you submit with the complaint.
Normally a refund of the fee will not be possible once your complaint has been registered.
- There is no refund even if we decide to issue a Remedial Notice.
- There is no refund if you are successful in appealing our decision.
- We cannot recover the fee from the hedge owner and refund it to you.
However, if we assesses that the complaint does not meet any of the statutory criteria defined within the Act, we will refund in full any fee paid.
Fees for other services
1) Land ownership
If you are in doubt about who owns the property on which the hedge is growing, you can make enquiries of the Land Registry. The relevant form (313) is available on their website or can be obtained from the Local Office at Gloucester (telephone 01452 511111). The current fee for this service is £4 and is payable to the Land Registry.
2) Supporting plans
You may purchase copies of an Ordnance Survey plan from us to support a complaint about a High Hedge. See our Scale of Charges for how much this costs.
You will need to complete a copyright application form to obtain an Ordnance Survey plan from us. For further details, contact the Planning Service.
What are the consequences for the hedge owner?
- If we consider there is sufficient justification, we can issue a formal Remedial Notice, setting out what action the hedge owner needs to take and when this must be done. The required action may include ongoing preventative measures to stop the nuisance recurring.
- A Remedial Notice will be registered as a land charge against the property where the hedge is growing.
- Failure to carry out the works we require is an offence which, on prosecution, could lead to a fine of £1,000.
- We also have a discretionary power to carry out the required works and recover expenses from the hedge owner.
Is the council’s decision on a complaint final?
The owner of the hedge can appeal against a Remedial Notice. The complainant can appeal if he/she is dissatisfied with our decision.
What can I do as the owner of a high hedge?
Please try to consider any approach for discussion by a neighbour and whether agreement on the problem can be reached before the council becomes involved. A more desirable outcome to the problem might be achieved through a negotiated agreement than through our involvement. You might consider using a mediation service. Even though there is a cost involved in this, it may an effective way to reduce conflict and resolve differences.
As a potential complainant what should I do?
- Ensure the hedge fits the criteria given in the legislation.
- Remember that it may be difficult to find the right answer to the dispute. An informal solution to the hedge problem may be more satisfactory for all parties. You might consider using a mediation service. This can be an effective way to address neighbour disputes.
- Be clear about the nature of the problem caused by the hedge and be reasonable when setting out your expectations.
- Keep a detailed record of your attempts to resolve any differences.
How can I demonstrate that I have attempted to negotiate with my neighbour?
Before a complaint can be registered, you must be able to demonstrate that you have made all reasonable attempts to resolve the matters complained of without the involvement of the council.
As a guide, we would normally expect that you should have made at least three approaches to the hedge owner prior to making a formal complaint to us, at least one of which should have been within the last three months. Verbal negotiation will count towards this requirement but it would be usual for there to have been written communication with your neighbours before you ask us to register your complaint.
Some evidence is required to substantiate each approach e.g. your written account of a meeting, a copy letter you have written together with any reply. At least one written attempt to resolve the dispute must be made after the legislation came into effect on 1 June 2005.
Where can I find out more?
Please contact the council’s High Hedges Officer if you would like more information about:
- the mediation process;
- contact details of a local mediation service; or
- the High Hedges legislation.
High hedges forms
You can download the following High Hedge forms and guidance:
- High Hedges complaint form
- Guidance notes for completing a High Hedges complaint form
- Form for requesting copies of Ordnance Survey map extracts
- Criteria for resolving a dispute
What happens with complaints involving multiple parties or hedges?
Normally a complaint will relate to a single hedge affecting a single property. However, there could also be multiple complaints about the same hedge, or even a complaint about hedge in different ownerships
Where several people wish to complaint about the same hedge they should submit separate complaint for each property affected by the hedge.
Where the hedge is situated on land under different ownerships, a separate complaint form should be completed for each section of hedge. If the forms are submitted together, only one fee is required.