We're responsible for dealing with complaints about high hedges in Richmondshire, including the part of the district in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
A "high hedge" is defined as a line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs, which are over 2m in height.
Individual trees or shrubs, groups of trees or woodlands don't come within the scope of the legislation involved, the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2005.
The Government's Hedge Height and Light Loss booklet will help you assess whether an evergreen hedge is blocking too much daylight and sunlight to neighbouring properties.
The main points of the legislation are:
- There's no requirement for all hedges to be cut down to a height of 2m
- You don't need to have permission to grow a hedge above 2m
- When a hedge grows over 2m, action isn't automatically taken: a formal complaint has to be made
- If you make a complaint, it doesn't follow automatically that your neighbours will have to reduce the height of their hedge. All the issues have to be weighed up and each case is considered on its merits
- The legislation doesn't cover single or deciduous trees
- It's not possible to require a hedge to be removed entirely
- The legislation doesn't guarantee access to uninterrupted light
- Damage caused by roots is a civil matter not covered by this Act and can't be dealt with by us
- The legislation applies whether the hedge is owned by an individual or a company
We can only intervene once you've tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving your dispute. The leaflet Over the Garden Hedge sets out some steps you should consider trying.
Our role is to act as an independent and impartial adjudicator in those cases people can't settle for themselves. If you can't agree a solution with your neighbour, you may need to make a formal complaint, which we can reject if we think you haven't done everything you reasonably can to negotiate a solution.
In deciding any complaint, we must strike a balance between the competing interests of the complainant, the hedge owner and the interests of the wider community.
If we consider the circumstances justify it, we'll 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's maintained at a reasonable height in future
- The penalties they will incur if they don't comply with the notice
The notice becomes a charge on the property and legal obligations pass to subsequent owners.
The notice will set a date when it will come into operation. It will also specify a reasonable period within which the hedge owner must arrange for the work to be carried out.
Hedge cutting should not take place between March and August to avoid disturbing nesting birds.
Failure to carry out the work is an offence which could lead to a fine of up to £1,000. The court may also decide to order the hedge owner to carry out the required works. It's also an offence to obstruct a council officer exercising a power under the Act. This also carries a fine of up £1,000.
If the hedge owner still fails to comply, without reasonable excuse, a further fine of £50 may be imposed for each day the work remains uncompleted. We can also make arrangements to get the required work carried out and charge the hedge owner for all costs involved. These costs would be registered as a local land charge and any prospective buyers of the property would be subject to them.
Both the complainant and the hedge owner have the right to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
Making a complaint
Before making a complaint, you should read the High Hedges: Complaining to the council leaflet. It explains what complaints we can consider and how we will deal with them.
You must have tried and exhausted all other means of resolving the hedge dispute and you'll be asked to provide evidence of this.
In setting out your grounds of complaint, you should:
- Describe fully the problems caused by the hedge
- Their severity
- The impact on you
Send us any supporting information that you want us to take into account. A fee of £135 is payable. You should return the completed form to us and send a copy to the owner and occupier of the land where the hedge is situated.
If we can't proceed with the complaint, we'll tell you why not. Otherwise, we'll acknowledge that we've received it and explain what happens next.