Over the Garden Hedge
Over the Garden Hedge06 March 2019 Written by James & George Collie

Over the hedge

A good relationship with our neighbours is something most of us want and most of the time most of us enjoy, however, when things do go wrong they have a tendency to go very wrong.

One of the most contentious – but thankfully rare – differences between neighbours relates to hedges and more particularly to high hedges. Boundary fences or walls will usually require planning permission if they exceed 2m in height. There is no such requirement for hedges no matter how high they are or may become.

After public consultation, the Scottish Government felt that there was a need for legislation to deal with disputes relating to high hedges and hence the High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013 was enacted. The Act came into force on 1 April 2014 and makes provision about “hedges which interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of residential properties”.

The Act doesn’t regulate the height of all hedges throughout the country nor does it make it illegal for the owner or occupier of property to allow a hedge to exceed 2m in height.

Its objective is to provide a means for the settlement of disputes where neighbours have been unable to resolve matters amicably between themselves and without the need to resort to litigation.

This is achieved in the Act by (a) giving home owners or occupiers a right to apply to the relevant local authority for a high hedge notice and (b) empowering local authorities to make and enforce decisions in relation to high hedges within their local areas.

The Act is intended to be a last resort and emphasises this by stating that applicants for a high hedge notice “must take all reasonable steps to resolve matters in relation to the high hedge” before making any application to the relevant local authority. Applicants must also have regard to any guidance issued by the local authority in question. The Scottish Government has issued Guidance to all local authorities but has also allowed each local authority to issue their own detailed guidance to applicants within their area. An application fee is also payable to the relevant local authority.

What is a high hedge?

A high hedge is defined in the Act as a hedge which:

  1. is formed wholly or mainly by a row of two or more trees or shrubs,
  2. rises to a height of more than 2m above ground level, and
  3. forms a barrier to light.

A hedge will not be regarded as forming a barrier to light if it has gaps which significantly reduce its overall effect as a barrier at heights of more than 2m. Additionally, no account will be taken of the roots of a high hedge.

Application for a high hedge notice

If an owner or occupier of a domestic property considers that the height of the high hedge, situated on land owned or occupied by another person, adversely affects the enjoyment of the domestic property which an occupant of that property could reasonably expect to have, then he may apply to the relevant local authority for a high hedge notice.

As mentioned earlier, before making any application for a high hedge notice an applicant must take all reasonable steps to resolve matters in relation to the high hedge with the party concerned and also must have regard to any guidance issued by the relevant local authority. He must also pay the fee demanded by the relevant local authority. Aberdeen City Council currently charges a fee of £382.00.

Consideration by the Local Authority

The local authority must dismiss any application where it considers that the applicant has not complied with his duty to take all reasonable steps to resolve the matter amicably with his neighbour or where the application is considered to be frivolous or vexatious. If the application is dismissed then the local authority must notify the applicant of its decision and the reasons for reaching its decision.

If the local authority does not dismiss the application then it must give every owner and occupier of the neighbouring land in question a copy of the application and a notice informing the person, to whom the copy is given, of various matters, including (a) that the local authority is required to make a decision on the application and (b) that the person has a right to make representations to the local authority in relation to the application within a period of 28 days.

When the 28 day period has expired the local authority must decide whether the height of the high hedge adversely affects the enjoyment of the domestic property which an occupant of that property could reasonably expect to have, and, if so, whether any action to remedy the adverse effect or to prevent the re-occurrence of the adverse effect (or both) should be taken by the owner.

Decision by the Local Authority

If the local authority decides that no action is to be taken then it must advise the applicant and the owner and occupier of the land in question of the decision; the reasons for the decision and that there is a right of appeal by the applicant to the Scottish Ministers.

If the local authority decides that action should be taken it must specify a reasonable period of time within which the action is to be taken and decide whether any action to prevent the re-occurrence of the adverse effect should be taken by the owner in relation to the high hedge. In reaching a decision the local authority must have regard to all the circumstances of the case including, in particular, the effect of the high hedge on the amenity of the area and whether the high hedge is of cultural or historical significance. The existence of a Tree Preservation Order has no effect in relation to any action which the local authority decides is necessary.

A high hedge notice

If the local authority decides that action is to be taken then it must issue a high hedge notice which will, amongst other things: identify the high hedge and the land upon which it is growing; the domestic property adversely affected by the high hedge; state the date upon which the notice is to take effect; set out the action which must be taken by the owner of the land in question and advise that there is a right of appeal by the owner to the Scottish Ministers.

The high hedge notice must be complied with by the owner of the land in question and is binding on successive owners.

This is not intended to be a definite statement of the law and hence if you have any questions or if we can help in any way in regard to enforcing the high hedges legislation please contact John Sinclair by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by telephone on 01224 581581

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