Under powers given by Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2005, the Council is responsible for dealing with complaints about high hedges within Richmondshire. This includes that part of the District within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
What is a High Hedge ?
A "High Hedge" is defined as a line of 2 or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs, which are over 2m in height. Individual trees or shrubs, groups of trees or woodlands do not
come within the scope of this legislation. The Communities and Local Government booklet "Hedge Height and Light Loss
" is a useful source of information on this subject to help people assess whether an evergreen hedge is blocking too much daylight and sunlight to neighbouring properties.
The following is a summary of the main points of the legislation :
- There is no requirement for all hedges to be cut down to a height of 2 metres.
- You do not need to have permission to grow a hedge above 2 metres.
- When a hedge grows over 2 metres, action is not automatically taken. A formal complaint has to be made.
- If you make a complaint, it does not follow automatically that your neighbours will be required to reduce the height of their hedge. All of the issues have to be weighed up and each case is considered on its merits.
- The legislation does not cover single or deciduous trees.
- It is not possible to require a hedge to be removed entirely.
- The legislation does not guarantee access to uninterrupted light.
- Damage caused by roots is a civil matter which is not covered by this Act and cannot be dealt with by the District Council.
- The legislation applies whether the hedge is owned by an individual or a company.
The Council's Role
The Council can only intervene once you have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving your dispute. The leaflet Over the Garden Hedge
published by the Department for Communities and Local Government sets out some steps that you should consider trying.
The Council's role is to act as an independent and impartial adjudicator in those cases which people cannot settle for themselves. We cannot, therefore, negotiate or mediate between you and your neighbour. If you cannot agree a solution with your neighbour, then you may need to follow the procedure for making a formal complaint. You should bear in mind, however, that the Council can reject a complaint if we think the complainant has not done everything they reasonably could to negotiate a solution to their hedge problems. So if you do not follow the advice in the leaflet, you will need to explain why not.
In adjudicating on any complaint, we must take account of all relevant factors and must strike a balance between the competing interests of the complainant and hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.
If we consider the circumstances justify it, we will issue a "Remedial Notice" to the hedge owner. This will set out what works should be carried out to the problem hedge, what preventative action needs to be taken to ensure that it is maintained at a reasonable height in future and finally, the penalties they will incur if they fail to comply with the Notice. The Notice becomes a charge on the property and legal obligations under such a notice pass to subsequent owners.
The Notice will set a date (at least 28 days from the date of the Notice itself) when it will come into operation. It will also specify a reasonable period within which the hedge owner must make arrangements for the work to be carried out. It is generally recommended that hedge cutting should not take place between March and August, to avoid disturbing nesting birds which may contravene wildlife protection legislation. Only after the specified compliance period has expired may the Council commence proceedings for non-compliance with the notice.
Failure to carry out the works required by the Notice is an offence which, on prosecution, could lead to a fine of up to £1000. The Court may also decide to order the hedge owner to carry out the required works. Furthermore, it is also an offence to obstruct an officer of the Council exercising a power under this Act and if it occurs, this too is punishable by a fine of up £1000.
If the hedge owner still fails to comply (without reasonable excuse) a further fine of £50 may be imposed for each day that the work remains uncompleted. It is also possible for the Council to make arrangements to get the required work carried out and then charge the hedge owner for all costs involved. These costs would be registered as a local land charge and consequently any prospective purchasers of the property would be subject to them.
Both the complainant and the hedge owner have the right of appeal. Any appeal by the hedge owner against a Remedial Notice must be made in writing and sent to the Planning Inspectorate within 28 days of the Notice being served. Similarly, the complainant may appeal to the Inspectorate if the Council decides not to issue a Remedial Notice or if a Notice is issued and then subsequently withdrawn. Either party may appeal to the Inspectorate against a Notice on the grounds that it either goes too far or not far enough.
Making a Complaint
Before making a complaint it is recommended that you read the leaflet High Hedges : Complaining to the Council
published by the Department for Communities and Local Government. It explains what complaints we can consider and how we will deal with them.
The leaflet also sets out what we expect you to have done to try to settle your hedge dispute. If you have not exhausted all the avenues mentioned, you should consider giving them a try. If you don't, you will need to explain why not. Otherwise, we might not proceed with your complaint.
Before making a complaint to the Council you must have tried and exhausted all other means of resolving the hedge dispute. You will be asked to provide evidence of this when making your complaint. To help with this you are recommended to record verbal or written requests made to the hedge owner together with their responses.
Your complaint will not be processed if we consider you have not done everything you reasonably could to settle the matter for yourself. We can also decline to accept any complaint we consider to be frivolous or vexatious.
The complaint form constitutes your statement of case as to why you consider the hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of your domestic property. It will be an important document in the Council's consideration of the complaint, as well as in any subsequent appeal against our decision. In setting out your grounds of complaint, therefore, you should describe fully the problems caused by the hedge, their severity and the impact on you. Please also send us any supporting information that you want us to take into account. If you are satisfied that your complaint fulfils the criteria, then you can submit a complaint. A fee of £135 is payable with the complaint. The complaint cannot be dealt with unless the correct fee has been paid. Please return the completed form to the Council and also send a copy to the owner and occupier of the land where the hedge is situated.
When we receive your formal complaint, we will run some checks to make sure that it meets the requirements set out in Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 and that we can deal with it.
If we cannot proceed with the complaint, we will tell you why not. Otherwise, we will acknowledge that we have received it and explain what happens next. We would also welcome your views on the process for dealing with complaints and would be grateful if you could complete a brief survey questionnaire whether or not you choose to proceed with a formal complaint.