Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, Part 8
People can take their complaint about a neighbour's nuisance high hedge to the City Council, if all other ways of resolving their hedge disputes have been tried. You must try to settle a dispute about a high hedge informally before asking for the Council to intervene.
A fee of £300 is charged for dealing with the complaint (section 68 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003).
A high hedge is defined in the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 as a barrier to light or access , formed or mostly formed by a line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs, and rises to a height of more than 2 metres above ground level.
The Council is only able to consider complaints that are all of the following:
The complaint is being made as a last resort and sufficient evidence has been provided to demonstrate this
The hedge is made up of a line of 2 or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs
The height of the hedge is more than 2 metres above ground level
The hedge is growing on land owned by someone else
The affected property is residential
The complainant is the owner or occupier (for example, a tenant) of the property affected by the hedge
The complaint is purely in relation to problems directly caused by the height of the hedge (such as the obstruction of daylight)
The correct fee for this service has been included
If the problem with a neighbours hedge does not meet the criteria of a high hedge, or the problem concerns a single tree (for example blocking light), you should seek the advice of a solicitor. By law the Council may not assist in such matters as they concern private nuisance or rights and areas of civil law.
The role of the Council under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 is not to mediate or negotiate between the complainant and the hedge owner, but to judge if the hedge, because of height, is affecting the complainant’s reasonable enjoyment of their property. In most cases this will be where a hedge is creating a loss of light to another property. The Council will decide an appropriate height for an evergreen hedge if an agreement could not be reached between neighbours.
Further information and publications regarding high hedges can be found below and from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Over the garden hedge (external link): a leaflet on how to settle your hedge differences without involving the Council. This process must be attempted before a complaint can be made to your local authority
Hedge Height and Light Loss (external link): a booklet to help people assess whether an evergreen hedge is blocking too much daylight and sunlight to neighbouring properties
High Hedges: complaining to the council (external link): a leaflet explaining what complaints the Council can consider and how we will deal with them
We would recommend reading this guidance before speaking to the owner of the hedge.
The Council is only able to get involved as a last resort and the person making the complaint will have to demonstrate that they have already done everything they reasonably could to settle a dispute before asking us to adjudicate.
If the Council considers the circumstances justify it, we will issue a formal notice outlining what action should be taken to remedy the problem and to prevent it recurring. Failure to comply with the notice would be an offence and may be prosecuted in the magistrates' court. The maximum fine the magistrates' court can impose is £1,000. The owner of the hedge can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against the notice.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it an offence to destroy any bird’s nest that is either in use or being built. The period given for cutting should take into account that, where birds are nesting in a hedge, work should not be carried out between March and August.
It may be decided that a hedge needs to be cut back in stages (e.g. over a period of three years to minimise the risk of killing the hedge).
Please note that:
The legislation does not require all hedges to be cut down to a height of 2 metres
You do not have to get permission from anyone to grow a hedge above 2 metres
When a hedge grows over 2 metres the local authority does not automatically take action, unless a justifiable complaint is made
If you make a complaint, it does not follow automatically that we will order your neighbour to reduce the height of their hedge. We have to weigh up all the issues and consider each case on its merits
The legislation does not cover single trees
The legislation does not cover deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves)
We cannot require a hedge to be removed
The legislation does not guarantee access to uninterrupted light
Problems relating to root activity (e.g. subsidence, roots taking moisture from the soil and affecting other plants and blocking of drains) are excluded from the legislation
Problems associated with the width of the hedge would be a private civil matter (you would normally have the common law right to cut back to your boundary any tree or hedge branches that overhang your land - we have provided some basic advice here)
As the Government's guidance to us makes clear, we may only provide factual information and cannot give advice on the merits of a particular case. Councils do not negotiate or mediate between individuals, but will adjudicate on whether the hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of the complainant’s property once a formal complaint is made. Given our role in these complaints is to act as an independent and impartial third party, we could prejudice our position in determining any subsequent formal complaint if we have advised either party or acted as a go-between.
Other organisations may provide advice on the most suitable means for resolving neighbour disputes and offer people practical help in putting together their side of the case. You may be able to get advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau, Community Legal Service Partnership or from your own solicitor.
Community mediation is particularly effective in this type of dispute. It involves an independent and impartial person (the mediator) helping those in dispute to work together to reach a settlement. Further information about local community mediation services can be found at:
Making a complaint
If you are satisfied that the criteria for making a complaint are met, please contact us.
We will log your complaint and send you a complaint form for you to complete. The form must be sent to us, and also to owner of the hedge and the occupier of the land where the hedge is (if they are different persons). You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone 0191 211 6102, and ask for the complaint form. Fill in the form carefully as this is your main chance to set out your case. Think carefully about your grounds of complaint. Explain as clearly as you can the problems that you actually experience in your house and garden because the hedge is too tall, and why these are serious. Stick to the facts and provide all relevant information to back up the points you are making.
If you have not carried out the steps required before you can make a complaint, we will write to you and explain what you need to do.
A fee of £300 applies. A fee is charged as the Government's view is that high hedge complaints are essentially a private matter. Payment should be sent by cheque (payable to 'Newcastle City Council') or postal order with your completed complaint form. Alternatively please telephone 0191 211 6102 to make your payment by credit or debit card.
We may refund some of the fee, but not all of it, if we have to reject the complaint.
Did you know?
You do not normally need any form of permission to plant a hedge in your garden, and there are no laws that say how high you can grow your hedge.
The size of a tree is determined by its genetics, limited by availability of nutrients, light and water, and ultimately by physics - the way it transports water from its roots to its leaves. Legislation could not and would not impose a height limit for a tree, but a the owner of a hedge causing a problem may have to take action to control tree growth.
You can help prevent a hedge on your property from becoming a nuisance by trimming it regularly, both its top and all sides.
If you are troubled by someone else’s hedge, the best way to deal with the issue is to talk to them about it. Involving the Council or going to court, especially without first approaching your neighbour yourself, might make matters worse. It’s in both your interests to try and sort things out - after all, you have to continue to live near each other so it’s better if you are on good terms.
Need more information?
Further information and publications regarding high hedges are available from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.
The Royal Horticultural Society and Hedgeline also provide some advice pages.
A complaint cannot be made to the Council about single trees or single shrubs, or deciduous hedges, whatever their size. If you have a dispute related to trees or hedges not covered by the high hedge law you are advised to seek legal advice from your solicitor.
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