The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 contains procedures allowing people affected by high hedges to take action. However, a successful outcome isn’t a given. There are a variety of complex issues that will determine whether there is anything you can do.
A ‘high hedge’ has to be a line of two or more evergreens. It must be higher than 2 metres above ground level. It is the Local Authority who will deal with any complaint. Before they will deal with you, you must first be able to demonstrate that you have taken reasonable steps to resolve the matter with the neighbour. If they decide to investigate the complaint, they will need to make a decision as to whether the hedge affects the reasonable enjoyment of your property. They will charge a fee for looking in to this, and the amount will vary depending upon which Local Authority you are dealing with. They can require the hedge owner to reduce the height of the hedge and in default, impose penalties. They can’t order the hedge completely to be removed.
There is a sting in the tail to all this. If, by reducing the height of the hedge to a level where it would start to have a beneficial effect, in turn it wouldn’t be viable, they may not order any reduction at all. I have come across a case recently where the Local Authority refused any height reduction for this very reason. You need to be careful that you aren’t ‘barking up the wrong tree’ from the outset and, if you can, forgive the pun. This is a key issue that needs looking in to at the outset.
The whole issue of high hedges can be a highly emotive one. It’s just as important to be aware of it when you are looking to buy a house. Don’t assume that you can sort it out after you have moved in. It may be too late!