Homeowners will no longer need to suffer the misery caused by high hedges under new government legislation which came into effect on 1 June.
The new powers mean neighbours who cannot resolve their disputes over high hedges can now ask local authorities to intervene. Local authorities, who have previously been powerless to act in such disputes, can step in to decide if the height of the hedge is unreasonable and spell out exactly what action must be taken.
Welcoming the new powers, Jim Fitzpatrick, minister at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, said: "This legislation offers a light at the end of the tunnel for people whose lives have been made a misery from high hedges. Out of control hedges can block out the daylight from neighbours' homes and gardens, becoming a real drain on their quality of life.
"This new legislation is yet another example that the government will take action against those who continually show a lack of consideration for others.
"Involving the local authority should only be a last resort and I urge people to talk to one another to resolve disputes before it goes too far. However, when all other avenues have failed, it is good news that people will now have somewhere to turn for a fair decision."
Under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003, local authorities have the power to intervene in disputes once a complaint has been made. The authority will decide whether the hedge is stopping someone's reasonable enjoyment of their home or garden, striking a balance between the complainant's and hedge owner's interests.
Where it is needed, the local authority will be able to serve a remedial notice to the hedge owner to identify what they must do to sort the problem out. If they fail to comply with the notice, they could be fined up to £1000.
The complainant must show they have tried to resolve the matter with the hedge owner. Complaints will only be considered where the hedge is evergreen, over two metres high and blocking out light, access or reasonable enjoyment of neighbours' property. If this is the case, local authorities will take a range of factors into account to reach a balanced decision on whether the hedge is a problem.
A fee to cover the costs will be charged by the council to the complainant at their discretion.