The Current Position
The legislation that covers high hedges are covered in Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, which gives local authorities the power to deal with complaints about high hedges that has come into operation in England since 1 June 2005.
From 1 June 2005, a resident must prove that they have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving their hedge dispute (such as provide evidence of all written correspondence). Then the resident can take their complaint about a neighbour's evergreen hedge to the Borough Council.
The role of the local authority is not to mediate or negotiate between the complainant and the hedge owner but to decide on whether the hedge is adversely affecting the complainant's reasonable amenity and enjoyment of their property.
If they consider the circumstances justify it, the local authority will issue a formal notice to the hedge owner which will set out what they must do to the hedge to remedy the problem, and when by.
If they don't agree with the Council's decision both the complainant and the hedge owner have the right to appeal against the Council's decision and to be heard by an independent Inspector.
Failure to carry out the works required by the final decision is an offence which, on prosecution, could lead to a fine of up to £1,000.
The Council has set the fee for a complaint at £500 with a reduced fee of £250 for households receiving Council Tax Benefit.
Making a complaint
The council cannot visit a property or give any advice (formal or informal) to a potential complainant regarding whether or not there is a case to be heard and/or what the chances of a complaint being successful are. These matters can only be determined following any necessary site visits and surveys, the cost of which is covered by the set fee.
It is for the complainant to determine if they have a case using the guidance that is available from the Government (see links below).
High Hedges: Complaining to the Council: Helpful information regarding assessing whether an evergreen hedge is blocking too much daylight and sunlight to neighbouring properties.
There is also an Excel spreadsheet that can help in making the height calculations. The council will use the formulas provided for loss of light to gardens and loss of light to windows to determine what the reasonable height of a hedge might be. You may therefore wish to refer to these to aid your consideration on making a high (nuisance) hedge complaint.
High Hedges: Complaining to the Council - Helpful information about complaints local authorities can consider and how they will deal with them.
Hedge Height and Light Loss - A booklet to help people assess whether an evergreen hedge is blocking too much daylight and sunlight to neighbouring properties. There is also an Excel spreadsheet that can help in making the height calculations.
Hedgeline: The Campaign Group for Effective Legislative Control of Problem Hedges.
Over the Garden Hedge - The right hedge can be an ideal garden boundary but the wrong hedge may bring problems. Use this guide to help you agree what is right for you and your neighbours.