This should give you a clear idea of the action you need to take before asking us for help in dealing with a nuisance high hedge:
The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 deals with the problem of excessively high evergreen hedges.
The legislation clearly places responsibility on the complainant to attempt to first resolve the dispute either directly with the hedge-owner or through the use of mediation before making a complaint to us.
We charge a fee for assisting in these disputes and this must accompany your application.
You are more likely to be able to sort things out with your neighbour if you can talk to them about the problem. You should try to plan what you want to say. This should include how the hedge affects you and what you want them to do about it. Try to fix a time and a place for a discussion and try to speak to your neighbour face to face. We ask that you send 2 letters to your neighbour within a 6 month period before you contact us.
It is also a good idea to write a letter, especially if you aren’t on speaking terms. You should keep a copy of all correspondence and replies because you will need to provide evidence that you have tried to resolve the problem sufficiently yourself before we can accept a complaint.
Further information on how to successfully talk to your neighbour and how to write such a letter is contained in the ‘Over the Garden Hedge’ leaflet. There is also an example letter to send to your neighbour, both of which can be downloaded below.
Mediation services can be an excellent way of resolving problems that seem to have no solution. Resolving a problem in this way is also better for neighbour relations in the longer term.
The government guidance such as the ‘Over the Garden Hedge’ leaflet suggests that independent mediators could be used. Unfortunately services such as Mediation Sheffield (MESH) do not currently have the resources to guarantee a response. In the light of this current situation we will not expect you to try formal mediation with your neighbour before we accept a complaint. You must, however, be able to demonstrate that you have recently tried to resolve the issue directly, for example by enclosing a copy of a letter to your neighbour about the problem.
Your complaint cannot be accepted unless we are satisfied that you meet the grounds for complaint listed below. In order to help you with this you may wish to complete a ‘Grounds For Complaint’ checklist that can be downloaded below.
The hedge must be in Sheffield
The complaint must be made by, or on behalf of, the owner or occupier of the affected property
The affected property must be domestic
The height of the hedge must be affecting ‘living space’ (vegetable patches, greenhouses, sheds and stores etc are not classed as ‘living space’)
The complainant must be sure the hedge is on someone else’s land. (You must be sure of boundary lines. If you are in any doubt about who owns the property where the hedge is situated, you can check with the Land Registry. The relevant form (313) is on their website or can be obtained from the Local Office. The current fee for this service is £4, if you know the full postal address of the property. You will need to obtain both a title plan and a deed plan to gain information about boundaries)
Only complaints about the height of the hedge causing obstruction of light, views or access that affect reasonable enjoyment of your property can be accepted. Other issues such as root damage, overhang or untidiness are not grounds for complaint under this legislation
The hedge must be made up by a line of two or more trees or shrubs
The hedge must be evergreen or semi-evergreen
The hedge must be more than two metres in height above ground level, as measured from the hedge-owner’s side
If there are any gaps in the foliage the hedge must still be capable of obstructing light or views
The complainant must have attempted to discuss the problems directly with the hedge-owner or attempted to try mediation if this has not worked. Evidence must be provided of the latest attempts to settle the problem with the hedge-owner, such as dates and details of discussions, results of mediation, and copies of any correspondence
The complaint must not be in any way, frivolous or vexatious
The complainant must be willing to pay the fee of £360 (£60 if proof can be provided of receipt of housing benefit or job seekers allowance)
If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions then we will not be able to accept the complaint.
If the answer is ‘yes’ to all of these questions then it is likely to be a ‘high hedge’ for the purposes of the Act. Provided the complainant has taken sufficient action to first try and resolve the problem with the hedge owner then the complaint may be accepted.
If your complaint meets the grounds for complaint above and discussions/mediation with your neighbour have not been successful you can complain to us. A complaint form and guidance notes can be downloaded at the bottom of the page. Alternatively, it is recommended you obtain a full application pack, please contact us.
Please note you will need to include the following with your complaint form:
The appropriate fee
Photograph/s of the hedge
Copies of deed plans indicating boundary lines of your property
Details of attempts to resolve the issue with your neighbour/attempt mediation – dates, copies of letters etc.
A clear location plan of the hedge detailing its position in relation to the affected property and any other surrounding properties that are also affected (measurements in metres)
The process is fully open and transparent and you will be expected to send a copy of your complaint form to the hedge-owner. Further correspondence and Notices will also be copied to all interested parties.
Our role is not to mediate or negotiate between you and your neighbour, but to make a decision as a neutral ‘third party’ on whether - in the words of the Act - the hedge is ‘adversely affecting the complainant’s reasonable enjoyment of their property’. In doing so, we must take account of all relevant factors and must strike a balance between the competing interests of the complainant and the hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.
You should note that accepting a complaint will result in an assessment but does not guarantee that we will be able to take enforcement action. This will depend on the result of the assessment and whether the hedge is deemed to be ‘actionable’ following a detailed light loss calculation. Further information is contained in the leaflet ‘Hedge Height and Light Loss’ which can be downloaded below. We are not obliged to return the fee if the hedge is determined not to be actionable.
If we consider that the circumstances justify it, we can:
Dismiss the complainant’s application or
Issue a formal notice of remediation to the hedge owner, which would set out what they must do to remedy the prescribed problem. In most cases this would amount to a reduction in height.
The notice will set a time limit for the works to be carried out and will state the maximum height to be maintained thereafter. Failure to carry out the works required by us is an offence, which on prosecution, could lead to a fine of up to £1,000 and a smaller fine per day thereafter. Ultimately we have the power to carry out the works in default. In this case, a bill would be sent to the hedge-owner to recover costs. If this is not paid, a local land charge would be placed on the property which would be identified on any property searches and have to be paid by the vendor or purchaser in the event of selling the property.
Prior to us being involved and a formal application made, potential complainants need to carry out extensive actions themselves including collecting detailed evidence and, in particular, attempting to resolve the matter amicably with their neighbours.
It is strongly recommended that everyone thinking about making a formal complaint read two particular Government leaflets ‘Over the Garden Hedge’ and ‘High Hedges Complaints - Prevention and Cure’ before doing anything else.
We have decided to set fees for this service. These are:
£360 as a full fee
£60 as a discounted fee for people in receipt of Housing Benefit or means tested Job Seekers’ Allowance. You will need to show proof of the receipt of either of these benefits before a discounted fee will apply
This fee is to cover the cost of administration and detailed site assessment visit(s) to determine if the hedge is “actionable”. You should note that accepting a complaint will result in an assessment but does not guarantee that we will be able to take enforcement action. This will depend on the result of the assessment. We are not obliged to return the fee if the hedge is determined not to be actionable.
These fees will be reviewed annually.
The legislation provides a means of appeal for both the complainant and the subject of the complaint.
Under the Act, the complainant and the owner and occupier of the land where the hedge is situated can appeal against:
The issue of a remedial notice
The withdrawal of a remedial notice
The waiver or relaxation of its requirements
In addition, the complainant can appeal against:
A decision by us that the height of the hedge is not adversely affecting their reasonable enjoyment of their property
A decision not to require remedial action even though the height of the hedge is causing problems
Details of appeals can be found in Section 8 of ‘High Hedges Complaints - Prevention and Cure’.
Appeal forms are available from The Planning Inspectorate or from:
The High Hedges Appeals Team
Telephone: 0117 372 8812
The appeal form must be sent to the Planning Inspectorate and a copy to us within 28 days of the remedial Notice issue date or the date when we said we would take no action, withdraw a Notice, or waive or relax it’s requirements.
An appeal form and guidance are available as downloads below.
We are often asked about high hedges and nuisance hedges that are causing problems for members of the public living in Sheffield. Please see our Frequently Asked Questions. There are further Frequently Asked Questions on the Government's Department of Communities and Local Government.
Over the Garden Hedge - advice on appropriate hedge boundary treatment and agreement with your neighbour.
High Hedges: Complaining to the Council - advice on the various processes and stages that both parties will have to go through in any eventual dealings with the Council.
High Hedges Complaints - Prevention and Cure - guides councils on how to run the system including appeals.
Appeal form to be sent to the Planning Inspectorate
Guidance on making and submitting an appeal form.
This is an example of a letter to send to your neighbour to outline the problem and to seek their views and co-operation.
This checklist should be completed before making a complaint. This will help you to determine if the Council will be able to accept your complaint.
Complaint form and guidance. This needs to be signed so please print and send by post.