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.
Download the example letter to send to your neighbour:
This is an example of a letter to send to your neighbour to outline the problem and to seek their views and co-operation.
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.
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.
If your complaint meets the grounds for complaint above and discussions/mediation with your neighbour have not been successful you can complain to us.
Download the complaint form and guidance notes below. 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.
Complaint form and guidance. This needs to be signed so please print and send by post.
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
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:
£400 as a full fee
£70 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’.
Telephone: 0117 3728812
The High Hedges Appeals Team
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.
Appeal form to be sent to the Planning Inspectorate
Guidance on making and submitting an appeal form.
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.
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.