Trees & High Hedges Act 2005 - A Guide
The Government has produced regulations about High Hedges and has issued guidance to help Local Authorities to deal with complaints about them.
The law makes provision for Local Authorities to determine complaints by owners/occupiers of domestic properties adversely affected by evergreen hedges, trees or shrubs over 2 metres high. The Local Authority is able to charge a fee for this service, to be paid by the complainant. A fee of £150 is payable in advance.
The Trees and High Hedges Act 2005, deals with High Hedges affecting domestic property. The legal definition of a hedge can be found in Section 2 (1), of the Act. Generally, a line of two or more evergreens or by a row of two or more trees or shrubs of a height of more than 2 metres above ground level constitutes a hedge.
The Local Authority may, if they consider the circumstances justify it, issue a notice requiring the hedge owner to take action to remedy the problem and prevent it reoccurring. This is known as a ‘remedial notice’. This notice can be enforced by the Local Authority entering onto the land and carrying out the necessary work if the hedge owner fails to do so.
Making a Complaint
People are able to take complaints to the Local Authority about high hedges, provided they have tried and exhausted all other means for resolving their hedge dispute.
The Local Authority will expect you to provide documentary evidence to demonstrate that you have tried to amicably address the problem within the last six months and that you have kept records of letters, conversations and mediation.
If you can demonstrate the above, the Local Authority can look at your complaint if:
1. The hedge is made up of a line of two or more evergreen or semi evergreen trees, trees or shrubs
2. It is over a height of two metres (measured from natural ground level), and
3. It is capable of obstructing light or views and can detract from the reasonable enjoyment of your home or garden due to its height.
Full details of why the hedge is causing a problem to you must be explained to the Local Authority.
Please use the High Hedge Complaint Form for submitting a High Hedge complaint to the Local Authority (see link below). There are also some High Hedge Complaint Form Guidance Notes.
Frequently asked questions on High Hedges
These questions and answers deal with a range of issues relating to complaints about high hedges.
Q. What is the Local Authority’s role when dealing with High Hedge Complaints?
A. The role of the Local Authority is to act as an independent and impartial third party. They do not negotiate or mediate between individuals but will adjudicate on whether the hedge is affecting the reasonable enjoyment of the complainant’s property.
Q. What are the grounds of complaint a person can make against their neighbour’s high hedge?
A. A complaint can only be made about problems that are experienced in the house or garden. For example the hedge may be a barrier to light or access or where it restricts a view. A complaint cannot be made about a high hedge where there are suspected root problems or that the hedge is unsightly.
Q. What constitutes a ‘High Hedge’?
A. A High Hedge is defined in the Act as a line of two or more evergreen trees or shrubs that is more than 2 metres above ground level and capable of obstructing light or views
Q. Do I have to pay the Local Authority to consider my complaint?
A. Yes, the Government has stated that Local Authorities can charge for the service. The Department of Infrastructure has approved a basic fee level of £150 in respect of any complaint received under the provisions of the Act.
Q. Can the fee be refunded if the Local Authority upholds the complaint?
Q. Who will be dealing with complaints?
A. An appointed officer of the Local Authority has been assigned to deal with complaints about High Hedges.
Q. How is a complaint made?
A. The Local Authority will send a form for the complainant to fill in. The form will require details of the grounds of complaint and supporting documents including a photo of the hedge, its location and copies of correspondence with the hedge owner.
Q. What will the Local Authority do with the complaint?
A. Once the Local Authority is satisfied that the complaint meets the legal tests, they will invite the neighbour to set out their case. An Officer will undertake a site visit and assess the hedge and its surroundings for themselves. It is likely that measurements of both the hedge and the garden will need to be taken. The information will then be assessed using calculations provided by the Department of Infrastructure. If the Local Authority decides action is necessary, a formal notice will be issued to the hedge owner, setting out what must be done to the hedge and when it must be done by. This is known as a remedial notice. It can also require the hedge owner to keep the hedge trimmed to its new size.
Q. Can the remedial notice require the hedge owner to remove the hedge?
A. No, the notice can only require the hedge to be reduced in height. The height a hedge can be maintained at is 2 metres, although in some cases it might be higher than this, depending upon the position of the hedge and its relationship to the affected property. A height of 2 metres may not be appropriate in every case
Q. How long will it take for the Local Authority to decide the complaint?
A. There is no set deadline to decide a complaint.
Q. What if the hedge owner fails to cut the hedge after being delivered a Remedial Notice?
A. Failure to carry out the works ordered by the Local Authority is an offence. The hedge owner could be prosecuted and if found guilty of an offence in court they could be fined up to £5000. The Local Authority can go onto the property and cut the hedge if the hedge owner fails to undertake the work themselves, and recover the costs incurred.
Q. What if the complainant disagrees with the Local Authority’s decision?
A. If the complainant disagrees with the Local Authority’s decision, they can appeal to the High Bailiff against the decision within 28 days of the date of the Local Authority’s decision letter.
Q. Are there any leaflets that explain complaints about high hedges.
A. Yes, these can be found on the Isle of Man Government’s website (see link below) or requested by telephone or in writing to Braddan Parish Commissioners.
Braddan Parish Commissioners
Tel: 01624 852 808