High hedges are often the cause of neighbour disputes however the recently enacted High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 can be relied on to resolve such disputes.
High hedges are a source of seasonal concern for gardeners and, sadly, a source of many neighbour disputes. The planting of a row of leylandii or similar along a shared boundary by a neighbour, just beside your newly built BBQ area, can cause anxiety and may have a detrimental effect on your enjoyment of your garden. We all like to sit in the garden in the sun, on the rare occasions in Northern ireland that we are blessed with good weather. A very high hedge can throw a neighbours garden entirely into shade.
Historically, although this was an area which very often prompted people to seek legal advice, the law was unclear. The good news is that the High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 came into effect on 31 March 2012. It gives Local Authorities the power to deal with complaints about hedges that block light to a neighbour’s property.
A high hedge is defined as being a barrier to light formed
i) wholly or predominantly by a line of two or more evergreens; and
ii) rises to a height of more than two meters above ground level.
The High Hedges Bill 2011 does not however apply to trees growing on land of 0.2 hectares or more in area, which is forest or woodland.
Upon receipt of a complaint, the Council will assess whether the hedge falls within the definition in the Legislation, and whether it adversely affects the complainant’s reasonable enjoyment of the domestic property specified in the complaint. They may send a Notice requiring the neighbour to remedy the adverse effect of the high hedge or prevent its recurrence. There is an appeal procedure in the High Hedges Legislation against a Council decision to serve a Notice and against a decision not to serve one.
A party who fails to comply with a remedial Notice will be guilty of a criminal offence and is likely to face a criminal prosecution, which may result in a fine. Hopefully this new Legislation will encourage those with very high hedges to see the light!
If you have been affected by the matters discussed in this article we recommend you seek specialist legal advice.