High Hedges (Scotland) Act

How complaints about high hedges are dealt with.

The High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013 came into force on 1 April 2014 and Government Guidance has been recently updated by The High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013: Revised Guidance 2019. The legislation is intended to provide a solution to the problem of high hedges where the height affects the enjoyment of a neighbour’s residential property which an occupant could reasonably expect to have. If you are affected by a high hedge in this way and have tried to resolve the issue with your neighbour without success, you can make an application to refer the issue to the Council. Before making an application you should read the following guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of vegetation does the High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013 apply to?
The Act only applies to hedges; for trees and shrubs to be considered as a ‘high hedge’, they must first be considered to form a hedge in the normal usage of the word. Groups of trees and woodlands are not hedges and are therefore not covered by the Act.

What is a “high hedge”?
The High Hedges Act applies in relation to any 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.

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 or shrubs, are covered by the Act. However, the hedge must be over 2 metres tall when measured from ground level before it can begin to be considered to be a high hedge.

Is it illegal to plant a high hedge?
No. The Act does not make it illegal to grow leylandii and other fast growing plants. Simply growing a hedge itself is not illegal, nor is owning a hedge which exceeds two metres in height.

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 the trees/vegetation planted closely together for a hedge or not. It is also highlighted that the Act applies to hedges and is not designed to affect woodland and forests. For example, well-spaced tree lines are not normally considered to be a hedge, even if the trees join to form a canopy. However, it is not normally expected that trees planted between properties would be classified as either woodland or forests.

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 an application?
Yes. The hedge does not have to be on land immediately neighbouring the property of the person making the application. It just needs to meet the definition of a ‘High Hedge’.

I have tried to reach an agreement with my neighbour, but haven’t been able to. What do I do next?
An application for a high hedge notice should be considered as a last resort and only used when all other attempts to resolve the issue between the parties have been fully exhausted. If you are finding it difficult to speak to your neighbour regarding the hedge you could invite them to talk to independent mediators who may be able to help you find a way forward. Details of mediation services can be found on the Citizens Advice Scotland web site or at https://www.sacro.org.uk/ . Records should be kept of all attempts to resolve the issue and these should be submitted with any application to the Council. Records can include a diary detailing conversations, mediation, and copies of letters sent by you to your neighbour (which should include proof of postage). The Council considers it reasonable for the applicant to provide proof of at least 2 attempts at resolution within the previous 6 month period before an application is made. One such attempt should be a letter from the complainant sent to the hedge owner at least 28 days prior to the date of the application, advising the hedge owner of their intention to make an application for a High Hedge Notice. This is in order to allow the hedge owner the opportunity to take action prior to an application being submitted.

Do I need to do anything before I make an application to the Council?
Yes. Before making an application, you must be able to demonstrate to the Council that you have tried to reach a solution with the hedge owner following the guidance above regarding recording evidence. If you’ve been unable to reach an agreement with your neighbour regarding the hedge, at that point you will be able to submit a High Hedge application to 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. Involving the Council should be a last resort if you really can’t agree a solution. The Council can refuse to intervene if they think you haven’t done everything you reasonably could to settle your dispute.

How do I lodge my High Hedge application?
 

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 £507.00 and a plan identifying the location of the High Hedge. Applications should be submitted:

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.

This is your opportunity to set out your case so it is important that you provide full information on the form. Explain as clearly as you can the problems that you experience in your house and garden because the hedge is too tall. Please bear in mind that this information will be shared with the hedge owner, but personal details such as email addresses and signatures will be removed in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

The Council has said that I have not satisfactorily demonstrated that I have tried to reach a solution with the hedge owner, but I disagree. What can I do next?

If the Council do not consider that the applicant has satisfactorily demonstrated that they have tried to resolve the issue with the hedge owner prior to applying, or if they consider the application to be frivolous or vexatious, then the application will be dismissed. The Council will therefore return your application and the application fee (an administration fee of £50.00 will be retained). There is no right of appeal against this decision.

What happens after I’ve paid the fee and the application is registered?
The Council will notify the hedge owner that an application has been made. The information contained within the application will be sent to everyone with an interest in the hedge who will then have 28 days to respond and set out their case. After the 28 day period an officer from the Council will go out to the property to assess the hedge, and its impact on your property. Once the officer has all the necessary information to assess the application they will firstly look to confirm whether the vegetation is a “high hedge”, and if so they will decide whether the height of the hedge adversely affects the reasonable enjoyment of your home and garden and what, if any, action should be taken. Both parties will be notified of the decision. 

The Council has said that the hedge is not a high hedge, but I disagree. What can I do next?
If the Council do not consider the vegetation shown in your application to be a hedge, or to meet the definition of a high hedge then the application will be dismissed, as the vegetation is outwith the scope of the Act. The Council will therefore return your application and the application fee (an administration fee of £50.00 will be retained). There is no right of appeal against this decision.

The Council has determined that the hedge is having an adverse impact on the reasonable enjoyment of my property. What happens next?
If the Council decides that action is necessary a formal High Hedge Notice will be served on the hedge owner and they will be given a deadline by which to meet the terms of the 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 has 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 reduced in height but I disagree - can I appeal?
Yes. Both sides have a right of appeal to Scottish Government ministers. Both parties can only appeal once.

The Council has identified that there is an adverse impact on the reasonable enjoyment of a residential property, will the Hedge have to be cut down to 2m?
Not necessarily. The Act does not require all hedges to be reduced to 2m in height. An assessment will be made taking into consideration any unreasonable loss of daylight and/or enjoyment of the property or garden and this will determine by how much the hedge will need to be reduced.

What are the time periods for compliance with a High Hedge Notice?
The time period for compliance through remedial action will be specified in the High Hedge Notice. Sometimes it may be appropriate to provide an extended time period for compliance to take into account individual circumstances, and also other matters including the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which provides protection to any protected birds, animals or plants in the hedge and how they would be affected by any work (for example if birds are nesting in the hedge, hedge cutting should be avoided during the nesting season).

What can the Council ensure that the hedge owner keeps the hedge at its new height?
As well as reducing the height of the hedge, the High Hedge Notice can ensure your neighbour maintains the hedge at a reduced height. So applicants shouldn’t need to go through this process again.

How long will I have to wait for the Council to determine my application?

There is no set deadline for the Council to determine the application. Please bear in mind that it will take time to get input from the hedge owner/other interested parties, to arrange a site visit, and to weigh up all the information provided. This could take at least 12 weeks.

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