High hedges and overhanging branches

Overgrown trees and hedges can be a nuisance, blocking out light and causing stress and extra work if they’re encroaching onto your property.

High hedges

As a local authority, we have powers to investigate high hedge complaints.

Before making a complaint, you need to assess whether the following applies:

  1. does the hedge act, to some degree, as a barrier to light or access – even though it might have gaps in it? We can only act where a hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of your property which must be a house and not a barn, garage, summerhouse or greenhouse.
  2. are there two or more trees or shrubs in the hedge, which are roughly in a line? Complaints cannot be made about single trees or shrubs.
  3. is the hedge comprised wholly or mostly of evergreen trees or shrubs? The legislation applies to leyland cypress, conifers and laurel. It does not apply to beech, hornbeam or climbing plants such as ivy.
  4. is the hedge over two metres high? The legislation does not require all hedges to be cut to two metres in height and you do not need permission to grow a hedge above two metres. Action will not automatically be taken if a hedge grows above two metres high.

It is not an offence to have a high hedge and you are not guaranteed access to uninterrupted light. We also can’t make anyone completely remove a hedge.

High hedges complaints

If you’re seriously affected by high hedges on neighbouring properties and have answered yes to the above questions, you can complain to us to get an independent judgement on the problem.

If your neighbour has a hedge which you think is too high, we recommend that you first speak to them and explain politely that you are being troubled.

Before investigating a complaint, it will be expected that you have exhausted all avenues in trying to settle the matter yourself. If insufficient efforts have been made to resolve the problem, we may refuse to look at the case.

Make a complaint by completing and returning our High Hedges complaint form (PDF File, 169kb) or call us on 01636 650000.

Fees for high hedges complaints

As a high hedge complaint is a dispute between neighbours, the council charges a fee of £250 for dealing with the issue. An initial application fee allows us to assess the complaint and see whether it can be investigated.

If the complaint is valid, you’ll then be asked to pay a second fee of £420 to complete the investigation and to take appropriate remedial measures if required. There’s a 50% reduction in the charges if you’re in receipt of means-tested benefits.

For more information about fees for high hedges complaints please contact us.

High hedge investigation and action

The aim of our investigation is to strike a balance between your and the hedge owner's interests.

We will not mediate in the dispute.

If after assessing all of the information and submissions by both sides in the matter, we’re satisfied that a hedge is too high, we’ll issue a remedial notice on the hedge owner to reduce its height to a more acceptable level.

If the owner refuses to act upon the notice, the case may be referred to the courts. There is a maximum fine of £1,000 for non-compliance and the Council has the power to carry out the work that’s needed.

Overhanging tree branches

If a tree (or other vegetation) is overhanging your house boundary and encroaches on a building, the tree owner has a duty to remove it. This is a civil matter so we do not enter in to negotiations on your behalf.

You might need to submit a conservation area notice or tree preservation order (TPO) application, however, reasonable works will not be prevented.

If the vegetation simply encroaches upon the airspace of your garden, you may prune back to the boundary at your own expense, but no further without the express permission of the tree owner. You or your contractor cannot enter the neighbouring land (to climb the tree, for example) without the landowner’s agreement. 

Any timber you cut off belongs to the tree owner and should first be offered back to them. They should indicate where they would like you to put it - it would not be reasonable to carry out the work and simply return the timber over the boundary. If the timber is unwanted, you or your contractor should arrange to dispose of it.

Find out more information on the maintenance of trees and hedgerows.

If you would like any help or further advice, contact us.