High trees and hedges
The right hedge can be an ideal garden
boundary but the wrong hedge may cause problems. Find out
what you can do if you think that a hedge on a garden boundary is
The ‘high hedge’ legislation
In 2005, under Part 8 of the Anti-Social
Behaviour Act, the Government introduced legislation to tackle the
problems caused by ‘high hedges’. The legislation gives local
authorities the power to exercise control over high hedges by
investigating complaints made by the public.
The role of the Council is not to mediate or
negotiate between the complainant and the hedge owner but to decide
on whether the hedge is adversely affecting the complainant’s
reasonable enjoyment of their property. In doing so, the
Council must take account of all relevant factors and must strike a
balance between the competing interests of the complainant and the
hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.
The Act requires people to have taken all
reasonable steps to have settled their dispute for themselves
before taking their complaint to the local authority.
What is a high hedge?
A ‘high hedge’ is defined as a line of two or
more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs that rise to a
height of two metres or more above ground level and which form a
barrier to light or access.
In making a complaint, the complainant must
show to the Council that:
- the problem with the hedge is related to its height; and
- it is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of their own
The latter point could include obstruction of
daylight and sunlight, jointly or as separate issues, as well as a
potential loss of view or outlook. In addition, a complaint
can made under the Act where a neighbouring hedge makes the
complainant’s garden feel claustrophobic. Impact on growing
plants may also be a consideration, provided that the damage is
attributable to the height of the offending hedge.
Under the legislation, the following factors
are not relevant to a high hedge complaint:
- fears the hedge may break or fall
- that the height of the hedge has led to health problems
- that other hedges in the area are maintained at a lower
- that the hedge was there before the affected property was built
or before the complainant moved into it
- the roots of the hedge are affecting neighbouring land or
What action may be taken?
Formal action by the Council could require the
owner of the hedge to reduce its height to a maximum of two
metres. The Council cannot require the hedge to be completely
What is the cost?
There is a fee payable to the Council if you make a formal
complaint and ask the Council to take formal action against the
owner of the neighbouring trees or hedges. The fee is
currently up to £600 and relates to the costs to the Council of
carrying out the formal investigation and any formal action in
relation to the complaint. The actual fee, payable in
advance, will be agreed by the Council before you are asked to
Does the Council have to act on my complaint?
The Council may decline to investigate a
complaint where it considers that the complainant has not taken
steps to resolve the matter themselves.
How do I submit a complaint?
Anyone wishing to make a complaint to the
Council must send a copy of the complaint particulars to the
owner/occupier of the land where the hedge is situated, at the same
time as they submit their completed complaint form to the
Council. The Council will require evidence to show that the
owner/occupier of the land in question has been forewarned by the
complainant that the failure to negotiate a solution would lead to
the matter being referred to the Council.
The complaint form should be
returned to the Chief Executive Officer, Broxbourne Borough
Council, Borough Offices, Bishops' College, Churchgate, Cheshunt,
Hertfordshire, EN8 9XQ.
The Government's Department for Communities and Local Government
(DCLG) provides guidance on how you can agree a solution about
problem high hedges. Information on how to assess light
restriction is also available on the DCLG website.
A leaflet entitled 'Over
the garden hedge' explains how to settle your hedge differences
without involving the local authority.
A leaflet entitled 'High
hedges: complaining to the Council' explains what
complaints the Council can consider and how it will deal with