High Hedges Frequently Asked Questions
1. When will the High Hedges (Scotland) Act come into force?
The bill was passed on 28 March 2013 and received Royal Assent on 2 May 2013. The High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013 came into force on 1 April 2014. Scottish Government guidance has now been issued and is intended to support the operation of the legislation by providing supplemental advice to Councils on fulfilling their obligations under the Act.
Meaning of a “high hedge”
The meaning of a “high hedge” as defined in the act is one which:
- is formed wholly or mainly by a row of 2 or more trees or shrubs,
- rises to a height of more than 2 metres above ground level, and
- forms a barrier to light (unless gaps significantly mitigate its overall effect as a barrier at heights of more than 2 metres above ground level).
In applying this Act no account is to be taken of the roots of a high hedge.
2. Will all trees be covered by the bill?
No. Single trees will not be covered, and it will be for the officer dealing with the case to decide whether trees planted closely together form a hedge or not. All types of hedges are however covered whether they are evergreen, semi-green or deciduous trees.
3. Do I need to do anything before I raise an enquiry with the Council?
Yes. Before making a complaint, you must be able to demonstrate to the Council that you have tried to reach a solution with the owner of the hedge.
4. I have spoken to my neighbour and we can’t reach an agreement. What is my next step?
If you are unable to reach an agreement over the hedge, at that point you will be able to make an application to the Council for a High Hedge Notice to be served. A fee will be payable at this point by the person making the complaint. This is in order to ensure that the cost of dealing with the complaint is recovered. The fee to accompany an application is £382.
5. What happens once I make a complaint and the fee is paid?
The Council will notify the hedge owner that a compliant has been made and that someone from the Council will visit the site to assess the hedge, and its impact on the light levels of the complainant’s property. Once a decision is made by the Planning & Regulatory Services Committee, both parties will be notified of their decision.
6. The Council has said the hedge does not comply with the definition of a “high hedge”. Can I appeal?
If you disagree with the Council’s decision you will have the right of appeal to the Scottish Government Ministers.
7. What happens if the Council agrees the hedge is a high hedge? What happens next?
The Council will communicate their decision to both parties and the hedge owner will be given a deadline by which to meet the terms of the high hedge notice. If they fail to take the remedial action on the hedge in that time, the local authority will arrange for the work to be carried out. The Council will have the power to recover the cost of any work carried out from the hedge owner.
8. I own the hedge and the Council have advised me that the hedge needs to be cut back. Can I appeal?
Yes. Both sides have the same right of appeal to Scottish Government Ministers. Both parties can only exercise the right of appeal once.
9. My light is affected by a high hedge but the hedge is not on land immediately adjoining my property. What can I do?
Yes. The hedge does not have to be on land immediately neighbouring the property of the person making the complaint. It just needs to be a significant barrier to light.
10. What if I don’t like a hedge because the leaves block my drains or the roots causes damage to my property?
No. The bill is designed to deal with the problems specifically from hedges creating a significant barrier to light.