If the height of a High Hedge adversely affects the enjoyment of a residential property, the owner or occupier of that property may complain to the Council under Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003. A High Hedge for this purpose is a line of at least two evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs measuring at least two metres above ground level.
Before you complain
Before submitting a High Hedge Complaint, you must seek to resolve the problem direct, including:
- Speaking courteously and writing politely to the hedge owner;
- Allow the hedge owner a reasonable opportunity to address the issues and remedy the harm you perceive. If both parties agree that the problem can be settled by mediation your Ward Councillor or another independent party may assist;
- You should keep a record of actions you have taken.
Advice on how you can try and resolve the matter directly with your neighbour is set out in the government leaflet Over the Garden Hedge.
If you are considering mediation to try and resolve the problem, mediation services are available from Essex Mediation.
Making a complaint
To make a complaint you will need to submit the following to us:
- A completed online High Hedges Complaint Form
- The fee payable is £500. Payment will be not taken until the validation is complete and the Hedge Owner has had a reasonable opportunity to remedy the complaint or to give a suitable assurance that the complainant's concerns can be resolved amicably. The payment will either by taken over the phone or a link will be provided to an online payment form.
We will only be able to help where you can show the answer to the following questions is yes.
- Is the hedge growing on land owned by someone else?
- Is the hedge - or the portion causing problems - made up of two or more trees or shrubs?
- Is the hedge mostly evergreen or semi-evergreen?
- Is the hedge more than two metres high?
- Is the hedge capable of obscuring light or views?
What the Council will do
The Council will only become involved if negotiation with your neighbour has failed and will assess the case, acting as an independent and impartial third party. On receipt of the High Hedges online complaint form, the Planning Department will carry out a validation check. Payment will be not taken until the validation is complete and the Hedge Owner has had a reasonable opportunity to remedy the complaint or to give a suitable assurance that the complainant’s concerns can be resolved amicably. The payment will either by taken over the phone or a link will be provided to an online payment form.
If the High Hedges Complaint is validated, it will be logged and acknowledged. We will write to the owner of the hedge asking for a site visit, and referring to the legal powers of enforcement. A site visit will be carried out to verify whether the High Hedge is as defined by legislation, to measure and plot the trees or shrubs in the High Hedge and assess the impact of the High Hedge. The role of the Council is to adjudicate whether the height of the High Hedge is in the words of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 ‘adversely affecting the complainant’s reasonable enjoyment of their property’, and if so what remedial action should be taken or what action is needed to prevent recurrence. That action cannot include lowering the hedge to below two metres or removing the hedge.
The findings from the site visit and the assessment of the High Hedge complaint will be reported and action proposed.
If No Action under Part 8 Anti-Social Behaviour Act is taken a decision letter will be sent to the High Hedge Owner and High Hedge Complainant notifying them of the decision and appeal rights.
Government guidance provides detailed information about the matters which the Council are to take into account High Hedge Complaints: Prevention and Cure (paragraphs 5.54 and- 5.104)
An owner or occupier who fails to take action required by a remedial notice is guilty of an offence and liable to prosecution. Where failure is continuing, the court may also order the defaulter to take steps to secure compliance within a reasonable period, and non-compliance may incur a fine of a daily penalty while default continues. Where the required action is not taken, the Council may authorise someone to enter that land to take the required action and may recover the cost from any owner or occupier of the land on which the hedge grows.
Both the hedge owner or occupier of the land on which the hedge grows and the complainant have a right of appeal. There is a 28-day time limit for appealing. Appeals can relate to the Council’s decision on the height, or the waiver or relaxation of a notice or withdrawal. A link is attached to the appeal regulations.