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Neighbourhood disputes: Scotland to get new 'high hedge' laws

The Scottish Parliament at Holyrood has thrown its weight behind plans to tackle neighbourhood disputes over high hedges.

The proposals will promote 'good neighbour' behaviour, according to its proposers at the local government committee.

Similar laws have been enacted in England and Wales, where the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 part 8 includes a section on high hedges. In England and Wales the Act provides a mechanism for allowing councils to deal with complaints over high hedges where they feel they are a nuisance and interfere with their enjoyment of their property.

The law in England and Wales allows the council to find that there is no nuisance, or to impose a Land Charge forcing the owners to trim the hedge and maintain it at a certain height. If the notice is ignored the owners can be taken to court and fined up to £1,000.

The new High Hedges (Scotland) Bill defines a high hedge as one over 2m in height, containing two or more evergreen trees or bushes.

It is hoped that legislating in this area will prevent costly neighbourhood disputes over hedges, which have been dubbed 'hedge rage' by commentators. The laws were first proposed over ten years ago by Labour MSP Scott Barrie.

"Our committee heard first-hand the impact that disputes over high hedges can have in communities and on the lives of ordinary people up and down the country," said Kevin Stewart of the local government committee.

The law will allow Scottish residents to complain to their Council about a nuisance hedge when they 'adversely affect their reasonable enjoyment of their property'. The Council will then investigate before aiming to settle the dispute amicably.

It will provide for a notice to be issued to warn the neighbour to take action and will allow the council to cut the hedge themselves if the owner was non-compliant, charging them for the work carried out.

The bill still has some way to go before becoming law in Scotland, with two more stages to be completed.

Source:

High hedge bill endorsed by Holyrood committee (BBC News)