High Hedges

Guidance for resolving high hedges disputes

What is a High Hedge?

Under Anti-Social Behaviour legislation, a high hedge is defined 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 two metres above ground level."

Simply put, a hedge is a 'high hedge' if it is all of the following:

  • made up of evergreen, or semi-evergreen, trees and shrubs
  • made of two or more trees/shrubs, which are roughly in line
  • over 2 metres in height
  • a barrier to light or access (partially or fully, even if it has gaps in it)

A row of 6 conifers, 4 metres high, blocking light to the lounge window of a house next door would be classed as a high hedge.

A row of 5 metre high beech trees that lose their leaves in winter wouldn't be classed as a high hedge. 

If you own a fast growing hedge

You are responsible for looking after any hedge on your property. You must make sure it is not a nuisance to anyone else. This means trimming it regularly on its top and sides. 

Making a complaint about a neighbours hedge

Before contacting us, you need to firstly speak to your neighbour. Calmly talk to them about the issue. It's much better to sort the problem out between yourselves if you can and to stay on good terms. 

If you've already tried to sort the problem out with your neighbour without success, you could contact a mediator. They may be able to help you to sort the problem out between yourselves. 

Useful advice about solving the problem informally can also be found in the Government's 'Over the Garden Hedge' guidance.

Keep a written record of what you are doing. For example, if you spoke to your neighbour verbally you should also make a note of it in writing. You will need this evidence if you later decide to make a formal complaint to us.   

You should only contact the Council as a last resort.

If you submit a formal complaint to us, you must:

  • tell your neighbour that you are going to complain
  • provide written evidence of all the steps you have taken to resolve the matter so far

If it was more than a year ago since you last tried to resolve the problem, we will ask you to try again before we investigate. 

To make a complaint, you need to:

  • complete our Icon for pdf High Hedges complaint form [156.05KB]
  • give evidence of all the steps you've taken to try and sort out the matter so far
  • pay the £450 fee. This fee is non-refundable, regardless of the complaint outcome. Please check the current fee with us before you send it. 

Please send this information to streetscene@fenland.gov.uk. 

Before investigate your complaint, we will need to:

  • review the steps you have already taken; and
  • check the hedge you are complaining about is covered by legislation

What you can complain about

You can complain about a 'domestic property' that is affected by a high hedge. This is defined as 'a dwelling, or any associated garden or yard.' The garden or yard must be linked legally, not necessarily physically, with the property. 

If you complain, you must show that the problem(s) with the hedge are related to its height and it is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of your property. Examples of problems include:

  • obstruction of daylight or sunlight
  • potential loss of view or outlook
  • making the garden feel claustrophobic
  • the impact on growing plants (due to the height of the hedge)

You can't complain about:

  • problems relating to a garage, barn, summerhouse, shed or outbuilding used for domestic purposes
  • worries that the hedge may break or fall
  • the effect of the hedge that has led to health problems
  • the hedge being higher than others in the area
  • a hedge that was there before the property was built, or before the complainant moved in
  • the roots of a hedge affecting neighbouring land or property e.g causing subsidence or blocked drains 

What happens after you have made a complaint

We'll gather all the information we need to make a decision. This includes visiting the site and getting a written statement from your neighbour. 

It usually takes about 12 weeks for us to reach a decision. 

If action is needed

We may issue a 'remedial notice' to the people responsible for the hedge. A remedial notice sets out what must be done, and by when. It stays with the property and passes to future owners. 

The remedial notice may order the long-term maintenance of a hedge at a lower height. It cannot order the removal of a hedge, or its height to be reduced below 2 metres. 

The hedge owner can go further than the notice requires. 

It is an offence not to carry out the works in the remedial notice. If the hedge owner doesn't carry out the works they could be prosecuted, and if found guilty in the Magistrates Court, fined.

We have powers that enable us to enter land and carry out the works ordered by a remedial notice. Expenses are recovered from the hedge owner. 

Appealing the Council's decision

You can appeal our decision if you are the person who made the initial complaint or if you're the land owner of where the hedge is. 

Appeals go to the Planning Inspectorate. They deal with these matters on behalf of the Secretary of State. 

An appeal must be made within 28 days of our decision. If a remedial notice has been served, it will be suspended whilst the appeal is being decided. 

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