High Hedges Act under scrutiny as neighbours remain in the dark

Overgrown hedges remain an issue in Scotland because legislation is not always being used as effectively as it could be, according to a Holyrood committee.

The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee has set out key recommendations in a report following its examination of the High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013.

The act came into force in 2013 with the aim of resolving neighbourhood rows as a result of giant hedges that interfered with the enjoyment of homes, gardens and local environments.

During evidence sessions, the committee heard of some extreme cases where neighbours removed every alternate tree in order to avoid the row of trees or shrubs being classed as a high hedge.

Local Government and Communities Committee convener, Bob Doris MSP, said:“Our committee heard directly from homeowners across Scotland, and many of them spoke of the serious impact high hedges had on their quality of life.

“Some even said they felt they were forced to live in the shadows because of hedges blocking natural light to their homes. Quite clearly, if someone’s life is made a misery from blocked out light this must be addressed.

“While there are examples of the High Hedges Act working well for communities, it’s clear that it’s not currently operating in the full spirit as was intended. For example, we found that some local authorities dismissed applications as they deemed a row of trees or shrubs to be a ‘non-hedge’ despite the detrimental impact on homeowners.

“In order to address some of these issues, we’ve outlined key recommendations for the Scottish government and local authorities so that the High Hedges Act can work better for the benefit of everyone.”

Key recommendations include:

  • Implementation by the Scottish government of revised guidance setting out that applications should be considered in terms of the impact of the vegetation rather than whether or not the barrier was originally planted as a hedge. In addition, the revised guidance should encourage local authorities to be flexible when considering high hedge applications, while still adhering to their green space strategies.
  • Making the cost of an application recoverable from the hedge owner where an application has been successful, such that the local authority can reimburse the applicant.