Good News - Legislation at last!
After years of lobbying for victims of ’giant hedges’ I was delighted that the Government incorporated high hedges legislation as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill at the end of the last Session (November 2003). Due to come into force during 2004, it gives local authorities in England and Wales new powers to intervene in hedge disputes where mediation fails and people’s lives are blighted by lack of light.
Text of the Act - Part 8 of Anti-social Behaviour Act
Commons Hansard, 17th November, 2003
Previous attempts to bring in legislation
There have been several attempts to introduce legislation, through Private Member's Bills, to deal with the problem caused by high hedges. During the Parliamentary Session 2002/03 there were two Private Members' Bills on High Hedges, one in the Lords (presented by Baroness Gardner of Parkes) and one in the Commons (presented by Stephen Pound MP). Unfortuantely, neither were successful, the Commons Bill being deliberately scuppered by a Tory MP, despite both Government and cross party support. Both Bills provided for local authorities, on complaint by the owner or occupier of domestic property, to take action to deal with the height of a high hedge if it adversely affects enjoyment of that property. Both bills were fairly similar and lack of light was the main issue when considering if a hedge causes a problem. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister published a briefing pack on the Bill, together with a Regulatory Impact Assessment. These are available on their website at the following address: http://www.urban.odpm.gov.uk/greenspace/trees/index.htm
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Background info on the 'high hedge' issue
I first discovered the extreme distress that giant hedges can cause through my own constituent, Mr Michael Jones (founder of Hedgeline). Despite approaches suggesting compromise with the neighbours who refused to trim hedges bordering both properties, including a visit by myself as an attempt at arbitration, little was achieved.
Indeed, many of the people I have since heard from, throughout the country, describe the efforts that they have gone to, sometimes taking years to convince neighbours to trim back hedges, only to find that the fast-growing leylandii is back with a vengeance the following year.
It was at this point I discovered that the Joneses had no legal redress against their neighbours, whose boundary hedges blocked their light for most of the day and prevented their own plants from growing. What the Joneses felt was worst about their case was that their neighbours now seemed intent on ensuring that these hedges grew as high as possible, in order to 'punish' the Joneses for complaining.
A well-kept shrub like leylandii can be a pleasure to have in any garden, as regular pruning ensures bushy growth and prevents the woody, leafless bottoms that overgrown leylandii develop. However, in many cases, this will not be enough and the Government has promised to bring in legislation to tackle this issue.
A great deal of effective campaigning has been done on this issue by Hedgeline.
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