Neighbour disputes - when hedges become a nuisance

One type of neighbour dispute that we are asked to advise on are those relating to hedges. In particular when a hedge becomes so tall that a neighbour complains that it is effecting the light in their house or garden. This raises a couple of legal issues; does it affect the “right to light” and is it a “high hedge.”

If the hedge reduces the natural light entering a person’s property then it could be interfering with their right to light, entitling the owner to an injunction or compensation.

It is however important to note that:-

  • This only applies to light entering a building. There is no right to light in the garden.
  • There is no right to direct sunlight. The right relates to natural illumination
  • There is no right to a view.
  • Light levels can be reduced provided what is left is sufficient for the ordinary and normal use of the room in question.

The Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003 gives local authorities powers to deal with complaints about hedges which adversely affect the reasonable enjoyment of residential property. The Act defines a High Hedge as one which is predominantly two or more evergreen (or semi-evergreen) trees or shrubs at a height of more than two metres above ground level.

Suzie Fisher of Thomson Hayton Winkley dispute resolutions team states,

“An occupier who believes that their neighbour’s hedge might fall under this definition, can complain to their local authority. However, there will be a fee to pay, and with any dispute, it is always worth trying to resolve it amicably with your neighbour first.

“The local authority’s powers include serving a remedial notice on the offending owner requiring them to take action by a certain deadline, and possibly to take action in the future to prevent reoccurrence. Failure to comply could result in a fine.

As with most things it is best to try and resolve these issues amicably. But if you can’t then the dispute resolution team at Thomson Hayton Winkley can help.”

Published 22 November 2019

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