High hedges

The High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013 comes into force on 1 April 2014 and is intended to provide a solution to the problem of high hedges which harm the enjoyment of a neighbour’s residential property, normally as a result of a loss in light.

If you are affected by a high hedge in this way and have already tried to resolve the issue yourself, you can make an application to refer the issue to us.

High Hedges frequently asked questions

What is the definition of a 'Hedge' and 'High Hedge'?

A 'hedge' is defined as “A row of bushes or low trees (for example a hawthorn, or privet) planted closely to form a boundary between pieces of land or at the sides of a road.”

A 'high hedge' is defined by the Act as one which is “wholly or mainly formed by a row of two or more trees or shrubs which is over two metres in height and forms a barrier to light.”

We can only get involved where the hedge in question meets both of these definitions. We cannot consider any impact caused by trees or groups of trees that are not themselves part of a purposely grown hedge.

Criteria for an application to be accepted

  • The hedge must be made up of a row of two or more trees/shrubs
  • The hedge must be over two metres (6ft 6in) in height
  • The hedge must be a barrier to light
  • The property affected by the hedge must be residential
  • The hedge must be growing on land owned by someone other than the applicant
  • The applicant must be able to demonstrate that they have attempted to resolve the issue with the hedge owner
  • The applicant must be the owner and/or occupier of the affected property to make a formal application to us
  • The affected property should be in use, either wholly or in part, as residential accommodation otherwise we cannot consider the complaint
  • The person making an application does not have to own the property (for example, if they are a tenant or a leaseholder), but they should let the owner (for example, the landlord or management company) know what they are doing

Anyone making an application should therefore be absolutely certain that they are able to answer these questions correctly before they apply. We will make a separate assessment of the circumstances – including a site visit – and if it transpires that these tests have not fully been met, an application may be dismissed without refund.

Making a formal application

An application must be accompanied by supporting evidence and the required fee of £400. An application form and guidance notes setting out what information needs to be submitted are available.

Our responsibility

We must act independently and impartially and must balance a hedge owner’s rights against any adverse impacts upon the living conditions of adjoining residents.

Applications we cannot accept

This process is principally concerned with the effects of a hedge on neighbouring properties as a result of light loss. We cannot consider:

  • Where the applicant has not taken all reasonable steps to resolve the matter before applying, or where the application is frivolous or vexatious
  • Problems that are not connected with the height of the hedge, for example, if the roots of the hedge are pushing up a path
  • An issue not directly about the hedge in question, for example, that other people keep their hedges trimmed to a lower height; or that the hedge is becoming a cause for stress

Assessing the application

Once registered, we will begin assessment of the application. There is no refund of all or any of the fee, including where an application is dismissed or if it is determined that the application does not meet the definition of a “hedge” or “high hedge” for the purposes of applying the legislation.

Because the impact of a hedge on a house is likely to be different in every case, we cannot consider the impact of a single hedge on more than one house at a time. In addition, we cannot assume that all adjoining residents will share the same concerns as the applicant.

We are only able to consider the effect of a hedge on each house on a case-by-case basis, and following separate surveys and assessments to examine the effect of the hedge on each house. This means that a number of houses affected by the same hedge have to be the subject of separate applications.

What happens when an application is submitted?

  • Our officers will visit the site to complete a survey to measure the hedge and to assess its impact on the adjoining house (or houses) and garden, including in terms of potential impact on daylight and sunlight
  • If we decide the hedge is having an adverse impact, we may issue a High Hedge Notice which will set out what the hedge owner has to do to remedy the problem and prevent it recurring
  • In reaching a decision, we must consider all relevant factors and assess each case on its own merits
  • As part of this process, we are required to balance the severity of the impact of the hedge on the applicant’s property against its wider amenity, cultural or historic value
  • We must also take into consideration any other legal or environmental restrictions that apply. It may therefore be the case that, even where a hedge does give rise to impacts on the neighbouring house, there may be overriding issues of public interest that mean that the hedge should be retained.

Appealing a decision

  • There is no right of appeal against a decision by our officers not to accept an application
  • However, the Act allows the applicant to appeal against a decision of a local authority not to issue a High Hedge Notice
  • If a High Hedge Notice is issued, but the owner of the hedge does not carry out the required works within the required period, we may decide to undertake the work itself and can then recover the costs of any such enforcement from the hedge-owner

Further information

Download the high hedge notice application form