In 2003 the Government introduced legislation to enable councils to solve long running hedge disputes. The legislation is much needed by those people whose lives are being seriously affected by high evergreen hedges. Contrary to popular belief, there is no legally fixed height at which an evergreen hedge should be maintained.
A high hedge is defined in the legislation as a line of two or more evergreen trees or shrubs, which have grown to a height of over two metres above ground level.
A hedge "action height" is only decided upon after the council has made a full assessment of each particular situation and the issues involved.
To understand whether the council can help you with your hedge problem please review the Government guidance on "High Hedges: Complaining to the council".
High hedge problems in the Malvern Hills district are dealt with by the Planning Enforcement team.
The district council will not accept a formal complaint unless you can demonstrate that you have already made every effort to resolve the problem with your neighbour.
If the council are to take on the complaint you will also have to pay a fee (£342.30) and fill in a complaint form.
For a more information on high hedge issues please refer to the following resources:
Since 1st June 1997 it has been against the law to remove most countryside hedgerows without notifying the Local Planning Authority (MHDC).
Removal does not just include grubbing up but other actions that result in the hedgerow being destroyed.
Coppicing, layering and the removal of dead or diseased shrubs or trees are treated as normal management.
Further guidance on protected hedgerows and hedgerow removal may be found in the Department of the Environment Farming and Rural Affairs leaflet, The Hedgerow Regulations; Your Questions Answered.
Prior to the removal of a hedgerow a Hedgerow Removal Notice must be submitted to the council for consideration.
The council has 6 weeks in which to let you know whether the hedgerow is to be retained.
Firstly a decision must be made upon whether the hedgerow is important. Following this, the reasons for removal are considered.
There is however a strong presumption that important hedgerows will be protected.
If the hedge is to be retained, a Hedgerow Retention Notice is served.
If you do not hear within 6 weeks of the council receiving your Hedgerow Removal Notice you can remove the hedgerow, unless you have agreed a longer timescale.
Removal of a hedgerow without permission is a criminal offence and you could face a fine in either the Magistrates' or Crown Court.
It will also help improve the wider rural community's understanding of hedge management.
They also produce a companion leaflet to this entitled Hedgerow Trees: Answers to 18 Common Questions, that should help land managers to make decisions about how to encourage and look after hedgerow trees. In particular it offers advice on how to plant and look after young trees, so there are younger generations to take over from the old veterans that currently grace our countryside.