Hedges can make an ideal boundary to a property but they can also bring problems. Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 gives powers to local authorities to deal with complaints about high hedges but we can only be involved if you have tried all possible ways to sort the problem out first with your neighbour. More information is available at Gov.UK.
What if you are bothered by a neighbour’s hedge?
If you are troubled by someone else's hedge the best way to sort it out is to talk to them about it. It is in the best interests of both of you to be on good terms, you have to continue to live near each other after all. There is practical advice about how to approach your neighbour about this on the Over the Garden Hedge page on the gov.uk website. Keep a record of what you have done to resolve the matter, as you will need that if you want to involve the council at a later stage.
Complaining to the council
Before you complain you must try and resolve the issue.
If you are troubled by someone else's hedge, the best way to deal with the issue is to talk to them about it. It is in both your interests to try and sort things out. After all, you have to continue to live near each other and it is better if you are on good terms. Calling in the council or going to court might make matters worse.
If you cannot talk to your neighbour you should consider involving an independent mediator, visit the Ashford Independent Mediation Service website for further details.
The Communities and Local Government website has a leaflet detailing how you can resolve the issue informally. Complainants will be expected to provide evidence that they have tried to resolve the matter in this way before complaining to us. View the Over the Garden Hedge leaflet.
I've tried to resolve the matter now how do I complain?
Once you have tried resolving the issue using the information provided in the leaflet above, you may be in a position to lodge a formal complaint with us. You are encouraged to discuss the problem with a member of the Compliance/Enforcement Team before submitting your complaint and for this reason the forms and guidance notes will only be available by this method. For more information and advice please call 01233 331111.
The more relevant details you supply the better able we are to understand and act on your concerns
It is important to supply full and factual evidence of all your efforts to resolve this problem by negotiation and/or mediation. We will reject any complaint if it feels that insufficient effort has been made to resolve the problem prior to the submission of your complaint.
You will need to pay a fee for making a complaint.
High Hedge Complaint Fee
The fee for making a complaint to Ashford Borough Council is currently £497.00, this will increase to £512.00 from 1 April 2021 (fees are inclusive of VAT). This fee must be paid when sending in a complaint.
When your fee will be returned
If we determine that it is not a valid complaint for one of the following reasons we will return your fee:
- It is not a hedge as defined
- It is not evergreen or mostly evergreen
- It is less than 2 metres high
- It is not a barrier to light of access
When your fee will be retained
If we determine that you have not made sufficient effort to resolve the matter informally we will tell you and retain the fee for six months to allow you further time to resolve the problem informally, perhaps with the use of mediation services. If you can resolve the matter within that time and you withdraw the complaint we will refund the fee, otherwise we will retain it.
If the complaint is vexatious or frivolous (e.g. it is a repeat complaint and circumstances have not changed) we will retain the fee.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 states that complainants must pay a fee to us when they submit their hedge complaint. There are several reasons why we think this is fair and reasonable:
- Payment of a fee will encourage people to try to settle these disputes amicably, making sure that our involvement really is a last resort
- A fee will also help to deter frivolous or vexatious complaints
- It is common practice
- Most people who responded to questions about fees in the 1999 consultation 'High hedges - possible solutions' thought it was fair that the complainant should pay something for us to intervene in their hedge dispute
- For local authorities to charge a fee for a service which is likely to benefit an individual (in this case, the complainant) rather than the community in general
It is important to understand the way the legislation works. It allows us to review these cases, as independent and impartial third parties. We are not investigating any offence - none has been committed, even if a complainant 'wins' their case - and so the legislation does not deal in innocent or guilty parties. As a result, the fee is a payment for a service, not a penalty.