Fact and fiction
There are some common misconceptions about the high hedges law, some of which are explained below.
What the law can do:
- It can override Tree Preservation Orders (TPO), although these should be considered when the complaint is evaluated
- 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)
What the law can’t do:
- It cannot require the removal of a hedge
- Work that would result in the death of a hedge is not permitted
- 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
- Require homeowners to get permission to grow a hedge above 2m (6½ft)
- When a hedge grows over 2m (6½ft), the local authority does not automatically take action, unless a justifiable complaint is made
- The law can not be used as a preventative measure – the hedge must already be above 2m (approx 6½ft) tall and impairing reasonable enjoyment
The advice provided here is just a quick guide. There is considerably more detailed information available from the Communities and Local Government’s website. They have produced a series of booklets detailing how to complain and respond to complaints. These are available by post or can be downloaded free from their website and include the following titles:
- Hedges – How to resolve disputes without involving the council
- High Hedges: complaining to the Council – How to go about making a complaint
- Hedge Height and Light Loss – Detailed guidance on assessing the effect of light loss with respect to the legislation
- High Hedges Complaints: Prevention and Cure – Detailed guidance on implementing the legislation
You can also contact your local council.
And visit our advice page on Trees and the law.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the person who plants a hedge responsible for maintaining it?
No, they are not obliged to do so. The exception would be in cases that fall within the High Hedges Act.
What is the minimum height of hedge that the High Hedges Act covers?
What is the definition of a hedge for the purposes of the Act?
A line of 2 or more trees or shrubs, wholly or predominantly evergreen or semi evergreen.
If I think I have a complaint what should I do?
Contact your Local Planning Authority and ask for some information. The Council do not mediate in neighbour disputes.
If a boundary hedge belongs to my neighbour, do I have to offer the hedge trimmings from my side back to my neighbour?
Yes. The same principles apply as for offering overhanging tree branches back. In practise, an unofficial agreement between neighbours is usually in place but this might be worth doing if you have recently moved house.
Can I chuck the hedge trimmings over into my neighbour’s garden?
No. Not unless they have accepted the offer of them and even then they may wish them to be returned in a more reasonable way.
What responsibilities do I have with wildlife and hedges?
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 applies, deeming that it is an offence to damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built. See our page on trimming hedges.