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Resolving “high hedge” disputes

Resolving disputes between neighbours over the size of garden hedges should become a bit easier after a new Act comes into effect in April this year.

The High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013 will commence on 1st April, having received royal assent last year.

The legislation is intended to provide a solution to problems caused by hedges which grow over two metres tall, and block out light.

It will give home owners and occupiers a right to apply to a local authority for a high hedge notice, and empowers local authorities to enforce decisions made in relation to high hedges in their local area.

However, making an application to the local authority for a high hedge notice is a last resort rather than the first port of call, says the Scottish Government. A potential applicant should take all reasonable steps to resolve the issue themselves before making their application.

Statutory guidance has been issued to local authorities on their responsibilities under the Act, which will see them act as independent and impartial adjudicators, taking into account the positions of each party in a dispute, before making a decision.

“I welcome the introduction of the High Hedges Act, which will provide a route by which neighbours involved in a dispute can resolve the issue,” Minister for Local Government and Planning Derek Mackay. “Unlike fences or walls that require planning permission if they are over two metres tall, there is no restriction on planting trees or shrubs to form a hedge, which if planted in an unsuitable location, or not maintained, can cause disputes between neighbours.”

“There remains an expectation that people should take all reasonable steps to resolve the issue themselves, however there may be occasions when this isn’t possible,” he explained. “In those situations, the Act will allow people to make an application to their local authority to intervene, and if the hedge is a barrier to light, then action can be taken.”

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