Friday, June 03, 2005

High hedges set for the chop 02 June 2005

Homeowners will no longer need to suffer the misery caused by high hedges, under new legislation that came into effect on Wednesday 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.

Excessively high and unruly hedges can block daylight from neighbours' homes and gardens, having a negative impact on their quality of life.

The new legislation will take action against those who continually show a lack of consideration for others, although involving the local authority should remain a last resort.

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."

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.

Other anti-social activities covered by the act include:

* Powers to disperse groups in designated areas suffering persistent and serious anti-social behaviour
* Extending powers to deal with aggravated trespass
* Simplifying powers to deal with unauthorised encampments (provided alternative sites are available)
* New mechanisms for enforcing parental responsibility for children who behave in an anti-social way in school or in the community
* Widening powers to shut down establishments that create noise nuisance
* Powers for local authorities to tackle graffiti on street furniture
* Powers to social landlords to take action against anti-social tenants including faster evictions and removing their right to buy their home
and about time too

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