Hedge your bets – High hedges
The traffic was mental leaving town that morning. I couldn’t understand why. The weather was resting somewhere between breezy and “a bit blowy”. Anyway, I raced through the door of the house and switched on the television. Liverpool was already 2-0 up against Arsenal with only 12 minutes played. Even more amazing, it was Skrtel with a brace of goals in the first and tenth minutes!
I had barely settled into my chair when Sterling popped up in the sixteenth minute with Liverpool’s third. What a treat I had in store. And then it happened…
The television picture flickered and gave out. I stared at an empty blue screen. Signal Failure.
I railed through the house. “Goodness me” I roared, or something similar. My neighbour’s trees had eventually grown to block my signal. Glancing up from her magazine, my wife told me she had last seen my saw in the garage. And so, I did the unthinkable. I fired up the iPad to read legislation on a blustery Saturday afternoon – The High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.
A high hedge is defined in the Act as:
- A hedge which acts as a barrier to light;
- A hedge which is formed wholly or mainly by a line of two or more evergreen or semi evergreen trees or shrubs;
- A hedge which rises to a height of more than two metres above ground level.
There are certain exclusions from the remit of the Act. Firstly, a group of trees forming a forest/woodland area of 0.2 hectares or more is specifically excluded from the Act. Also, a single tree or shrub, of whatever size, will not qualify. Deciduous trees which lose their leaves during part of the year do not qualify and thus beech hedges are excluded. The Act is designed to protect occupiers of domestic properties- it doesn’t extent to commercial premises.
Before making a complaint to your local council about any high hedge you are first required to seek to resolve the problem with your neighbour. It is recommended that the initial approach is made in person and followed up in writing. If your neighbour refuses to engage with you, you might wish to consider some form of mediation because the council, when investigating your complaint, will need to be satisfied that you have taken all reasonable steps to try and resolve the issue yourself. If attempts to resolve the problem are unsuccessful, you should then consider making a formal complaint to the local council.
If the council agrees with you and considers the complaint to be justified it will issue a remedial notice to your neighbour requiring that the hedge be reduced in height. Owners of high hedges/trees should also note that if a valid complaint is made through the local council then they can be liable to the council for the recovery of administrative and investigative costs.
In the end, I had a friendly discussion with said neighbour and the situation was amicably resolved. However, not before Liverpool’s annihilation of Arsenal. The game ended: Liverpool 5, Arsenal 1.
While the law doesn’t need to be invoked in every situation, it is imperative to know where you stand before taking any action. Legal advice will inform how best to proceed.
For further match reports, contact: Joe Moore, Partner, Tughans Real Estate Department.
While great care has been taken in the preparation of the content of this article, it does not purport to be a comprehensive statement of the relevant law and full professional advice should be taken before any action is taken in reliance on any item covered.