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Apply for or object to the removal of countryside hedgerows, works to hedges, complain about high hedges, report wildlife offences and common law rights.
A countryside hedgerow is protected if it meets certain criteria for:
This protection does not apply to hedgerows used to mark the boundary of private gardens.
Can hedgerows be protected by other means?
Hedgerows may sometimes be protected as a condition of planning permission. Any works to hedgerows protected by planning permission conditions will require our consent.
Are there any penalties for destroying a protected hedgerow?
A fine of up to £5,000 can be imposed in the Magistrates Court, although more serious cases may be tried in the Crown Court and subject to an unlimited fine.
Countryside hedgerow removal and appeals
You will need to submit a planning application to request the removal of a countryside hedgerow. There is currently no charge for this type of application. Once you have submitted an application, we will make a decision within 6 weeks.
If we decide the hedgerow is important, as specified in the legislation criteria, your application will be refused and a hedgerow retention notice will be served. This prevents the hedgerow from being removed.
If we decide the hedgerow isn't classed as important, we will instead serve a hedgerow removal notice. This allows the hedgerow to be removed.
Can I appeal the council's decision about a countryside hedgerow?
Appeals about a protected hedgerow can be made within 28 days of our formal decision.
Do I have to notify the council before carrying out work to a countryside hedgerow?
Some types of work may be carried out to a countryside hedgerow without contacting us first. This includes:
As a result of its height, a hedge that acts as a barrier to light or access; to the extent that it adversely affects the reasonable enjoyment of one or more persons' residential property.
To meet the definition, the hedge must be over 2 metres in height and completely or significantly made up of evergreen or semi-evergreen species, such as leylandii, holly or privet hedging. It must be self-supporting and formed in a line of two or more trees or shrubs.
Are high hedges legal?
It is not illegal to own a high hedge, although we may investigate complaints and serve notice to reduce its height if we find it adversely affects the reasonable enjoyment of a person's residential property. If the owner of the hedge refuses to resolve the issue after being served notice, we may carry out the work ourselves and in some cases prosecute the owner under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, and the High Hedges Regulations 2005.
Can I trim a neighbours hedge?
If a tree or hedge located on neighbouring land overhangs your property, you are permitted to prune any overhanging branches or roots back to the boundary.
You must not go beyond the boundary, and any material removed from the tree or hedge should be offered back to the owner. You must also not destabilise or cause a disproportionate amount of damage to the tree or hedge.
Can I complain about a high hedge?
Before we can investigate a complaint, you must have attempted at least twice to resolve the issue by negotiating with the owner. You can attempt this verbally or in writing.
The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) website contains detailed publications which explain the legislation in more detail and provide guidance for use in considering high hedge cases. The two most useful documents can be accessed through the links below:
If you fail to resolve the issue directly with the hedge owner you can ask us to formally investigate your complaint.
The standard fee for this application is currently £384, although it can be reduced if you are in receipt of council tax benefit, housing benefit, family credit, working family tax credit, disability working allowance, or income support. If you are making a joint application with other residents, the fee is £576.
The council has produced a 'High Hedge Pack' which consists of the application form and guidance documents which must be read before completing the application form.
What happens after I submit a complaint about a high hedge?
We will assess the situation from any affected property and contact the hedge owner to do the same from their side before making a decision. If necessary, we may serve a 'remedial notice' ordering the owner to reduce the height of the hedge within a specified time, and maintain it below a specified height going forward.
If the owner does not take action to reduce the height of hedge after being served with a remedial notice, we may take steps to do this on their behalf and possibly prosecute the owner under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, and the High Hedges Regulations 2005.
Can I appeal the council's decision about a high hedge?
We own and control a number of hedges that grow on council-owned land, which may include parks, schools and public highways.
Structural damage caused by a hedge
If you have an insurance policy for your building, you should first consider contacting them. If the damage isn't covered by an insurance policy or you do not wish to go down this route, you could instead consider contacting a structural engineer to determine if the hedge is responsible.
Before carrying out any work on a hedge, you should first approach the owner if it is not yours. You may wish to seek legal advice if the owner is unwilling to act, and you should also check if there are any planning restrictions that may affect the work before carrying it out.
Many wildlife habitats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which makes it an offence to kill, injure or take animals, including their young, eggs or nests.
Non-urgent work to hedges should be avoided during the bird nesting and breeding season, which is usually between 1st March and 31st August. If in doubt, you are advised to consult an expert so they can carry out an appropriate wildlife survey.
If you suspect an offence has been committed in relation to wild birds or a protected species, then you should report the incident to your local police force on the 101 non-emergency telephone number.