High Hedges Bill makes progress

11 October 2012

A Bill is currently passing through the early stages in the Scottish Parliament that will restrict the ability of property owners to grow high hedges within their boundaries that causes a nuisance by blocking light to neighbouring properties. Currently, Scotland does not have legislation to combat this well known issue that can blight the lives of homeowners who are robbed of light due to fast, high growing and dense evergreen trees and shrubs.

At present, there is little a homeowner can do if a neighbour allows an evergreen hedge to grow to a height and size that blocks light, regardless of how close the tree is to their property. Short of asking the neighbour to trim the hedge, there is currently no other remedy, and frustrated homeowners cannot enter the property to trim the tree themselves – although they can trim any encroaching growth from their own side of the boundary.

The Bill defines a high hedge as: ‘one which is wholly or mainly formed by a row of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs which is over two metres in height and forms a barrier to light.’ It follows consultation with various stakeholders and the public (who at 93% formed the majority of respondents). It is not intended to include wholly deciduous trees, which do not create the same all-year-round barrier to light that trees such as conifers do.

The Bill will give property owners the right to apply to the local authority if such a hedge is affecting the enjoyment of their property, and empowers  local authorities power to assess this and take the necessary steps, provided the property owner has taken all other reasonable routes to resolve the problem first. The Bill makes provision for local authorities to recover the costs of any enforcement from the hedge-owner and to charge a fee for applications for a high hedge notice. Both the applicant and recipient of a High Hedges notice will have recourse to appeal.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, legislation is already in place to combat this problem in a section of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 and the High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011. This proposed legislation would bring Scotland into line with the rest of the country in having a statutory framework to tackle the issue. However, unlike in England and Wales, it is not proposed that a failure to control growth following a High Hedges order should be an offence, as it could inflame an already difficult situation between neighbours.

Views are currently being sought by the Local Government and Regeneration Committee on the provisions of the Bill. Responses from the public and organisations are required in writing by 6pm on Thursday 29th November 2012. Further details on how to respond can be found here.  

Bookmark and Share



blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Information