We now have powers to deal with complaints about high hedges.
What the service is for:
Hedges have many benefits as a garden boundary. They can be
- useful weather and dust filters
- inexpensive to create and long-lasting
- encouraging to wildlife
- a feature of beauty and interest in their own right
- useful in creating privacy and security.
Problems occur when hedges are allowed to grow unchecked. They can cause excessive shade if overgrown or inappropriate and can ruin enjoyment of gardens or home.
What can I do if my neighbours hedge is reducing my enjoyment of my property.
1. Talk to your neighbours
If you are troubled by a neighbour's hedge the first thing to do is to talk to them about the problem and try to reach a mutually agreeable solution. Remember that whether or not there is a hedge between you, you have to continue to live with your neighbours. Resolving disputes with them amicably is always preferable.
You can find a leaflet giving tips on negotiating with your neighbours called 'Over the Garden Hedge' to the right.
2. How can we help?
We have powers to intervene in certain disputes over high hedges. Complaining about your neighbour's hedge is a last resort and you must try to resolve the issue with your neighbour amicably. You will have to show evidence of the efforts that you have made to reach an amicable solution, so make sure you keep records of correspondence.
Our job is to decide whether the hedge adversely affects your reasonable enjoyment of your property and, if so, what action - if any - should be taken to remedy the situation or to prevent it happening again. The use of the word 'reasonable' is important. It means that we cannot just take into account your concerns. We must also consider your neighbour's point of view and think about the consequences for the neighbourhood. For example, the hedge might help to make the area an attractive and pleasant place to live. We have to weigh up all relevant information before reaching a fair and balanced decision. Collecting written evidence from you and your neighbour, and visiting the site, will make sure that we have the information we need to make the right decision.
How do I make a complaint?
Complaints must be made in writing detailing the steps that you have taken to resolve the issue and the ways in which the height of the hedge is interfering with your enjoyment of your property. A complaint form along with guidance notes can be found to the right. Complaints should be addressed to:
Planning Enforcement Team
Cherwell District Council
There is a charge of £360 for considering a complaint and complaints must be accompanied by the correct fee. More information on making a complaint can can be found in the leaflet 'High Hedges - complaining to the Council' which can be found to the right.
What types of hedge are covered?
The legislation is restricted to certain types of hedge. In order for us to deal with your complaint the hedge must:
- Be wholly or predominantly evergreen or semi-evergreen. This means it must retain some live foliage throughout the year. Beech hedges, for example, are excluded as although they often retain leaves throughout the winter, these leaves are dead and brown.
- Consist of a line of two or more trees or shrubs. The legislation does not apply to single trees.
Be at least 2m in height. This is measured from natural ground level at the point at which the hedge is growing, usually on the hedge owners land.
- Form a barrier to light or access.
- Adversely affect your enjoyment of your property by virtue of its height. Problems related to hedge roots are specifically excluded.
How long does it take to decide a complaint?
There is no set deadline for us to decide a complaint. It will take some time for us to get a statement from your neighbour and to arrange a site visit so you should not expect to get an answer for at least 12 weeks.
How long will your neighbour have to cut the hedge?
This will vary but it could well be months rather than weeks. We must be realistic about how long it will take your neighbour to carry out the works. They might also allow extra time so that the hedge does not have to be cut when birds might be nesting in it. Your neighbour can appeal if they think we have not allowed enough time.
What is there to make sure your neighbour keeps the hedge at its new height? Do you have to complain again and pay a fee?
As well as reducing the height of the hedge, we can order your neighbour to take action to prevent the problems with the hedge happening again. This could include keeping the hedge within its new height for as long as it is there. The remedial notice issued will set out any such maintenance requirement. So you wouldn't have to make another formal complaint and go through this process again to get something done.
Can I appeal against a decision?
If you disagree with our decision, you can appeal to the independent Planning Inspectorate. Whether or not you can appeal depends on the nature of the decision made by us, who you are and your reasons (or grounds) for disagreeing with the decision in question. They must receive your appeal within 28 days of the date of the our decision letter. The leaflet to the right 'High hedges: appealing against the council's decision' explains how you can appeal and how your appeal will be handled. You should be aware that your neighbour can also appeal if they are unhappy with our decision. If you think we have not handled your complaint properly, you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.
Further information about how to make an appeal can be found on the on the Planning Inspectorate website a link to this can be found to the right.
- [PDF] High Hedges - appealing against the council's decision (313kb)
- [PDF] High Hedges - complaining to the council (394kb)
- [PDF] High Hedges - Complaint Form (59kb)
- [PDF] High Hedges - over the garden hedge (1.1Mb)