The High Hedges (Scotland) Bill was passed on 28th March 2013. Below is a number of ‘Question & Answers' to provide information on what the bill covers, how it will work and when it is expected to come into force.
- What is a "high hedge"?
- Will all trees be covered by the bill?
- I’ve heard that only hedges made up of certain types of trees will be covered, is this true?
- Do I need to do anything before I make a complaint to the council?
- I have tried to reach an agreement with my neighbour, but haven’t been able to. What do I do next?
- How do I lodge my High Hedges complaint?
- What happens after I’ve paid the fee and the complaint is lodged?
- The council has said that the hedge is not a high hedge, but I disagree. What can I do next?
- The council has determined that the hedge is a high hedge. What happens next?
- I am the hedge owner. The council has said my hedge needs to be cut back but I disagree - can I appeal?
- I live in a property which suffers from lack of light due to a high hedge, but the hedge is not on land immediately adjoining my property. Can I still make a complaint?
- Does the bill cover issues such as problems caused by pine needles blocking drains, leaf fall and root damage?
- Will the bill be reviewed?
When will the High Hedges (Scotland) Act (as amended) come into force?
The bill was passed on 28th March 2013 and received Royal Assent on 2nd May 2013. The process of drawing up guidance has begun but is expected to take some months to complete. It is anticipated that the bill will come into force at the beginning of April 2014. The guidance will set out guidelines on making a complaint and also on the criteria that councils will be using to adjudicate on complaints to ensure that the process is transparent.
What is a "high hedge"?
This Act applies in relation to a hedge (referred to in the Act as a "high hedge") which:
a. is formed wholly or mainly by a row of 2 or more trees or shrubs
b. rises to a height of more than 2 metres above ground level, and
c. forms a barrier to light.
A hedge is not to be regarded as forming a barrier to light if it has gaps which significantly reduce its overall effect as a barrier at heights of more than 2 metres.
In applying the Act in relation to a high hedge, no account is to be taken of the roots of a high hedge.
Will all trees be covered by the bill?
No. Single trees will not be covered, and it will be for the investigating officer to decide whether trees planted closely together form a hedge, or not.
I’ve heard that only hedges made up of certain types of trees will be covered, is this true?
No. All types of hedge, whether they are made up of evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous trees, will be covered by the bill. However, the hedge must be over 2 metres tall before it can begin to be considered a high hedge. Not all hedges over 2 metres will automatically be termed a ‘high hedge, only if a complaint is made and that complaint is upheld by the council.
Do I need to do anything before I make a complaint to 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 hedge owner by alternative means, such as by mediation.
I have tried to reach an agreement with my neighbour, but haven’t been able to. What do I do next?
If you’ve been unable to reach an agreement over the hedge, at that point you will be able to raise a complaint with the council. A fee will be payable by you. This is in order to ensure that the council can cover the costs of investigating the complaint. It will be for the council to decide how the fee structure will operate.
When you are ready to lodge your High Hedges complaint please complete the Application for High Hedge Notice Form and submit it along with the relevant fee of £464.00 and a plan identifying the location of the High Hedge. Applications should be posted to: Central Validation Team, Planning, Housing and Regulatory Services, 1A Manse Brae, Lochgilphead, Argyll, PA31 8RD. Applications will be subject to an initial validation check to ascertain whether all of the required information/fee has been provided. If your application is found to be invalid then you will be advised in writing and afforded a period of 14 days to address these any omissions in your submission. If you do not address the outstanding matters within the specified time period then the invalid application will be returned along with any fee paid minus a £50 handling charge. Once an application has been validated then no refund will be provided regardless of the outcome of the assessment, or in the event that the you choose to withdraw the application at a later date.
What happens after I’ve paid the fee and the complaint is lodged?
The council will notify the hedge owner that a complaint has been made, and then an officer from the council will go out to the property to assess the hedge, and its impact on the light levels of your property.
Once they have made a decision, they will notify both parties of their decision.
The council has said that the hedge is not a high hedge, but I disagree. What can I do next?
If you disagree with the council’s decision, you will have the right of appeal to Scottish Government ministers.
The council has determined that 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 council 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.
I am the hedge owner. The council has said my hedge needs to be cut back but I disagree - can I appeal?
Yes. Both sides have the same right of appeal to Scottish Government ministers. Both parties can only appeal once.
I live in a property which suffers from lack of light due to a high hedge, but the hedge is not on land immediately adjoining my property. Can I still make a complaint?
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.
Does the bill cover issues such as problems caused by pine needles blocking drains, leaf fall and root damage?
No. Where plant life is causing damage to a property, there are existing civil methods which exist to address these issues. This bill is designed to deal with the problems resulting specifically from hedges creating a significant barrier to light.
Will the bill be reviewed?
Yes. The bill contains specific statutes to ensure that it will be reviewed within five years. This includes a review of the definition, so that changes can be made if required.