Planning, building and the environment

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Pre-complaint Advice

What advice can the Council provide to potential complainants and hedge owners?

Councils should provide factual information - such as what constitutes a high hedge or how a complaint will be processed. This might include sending relevant leaflets or pointing people to where material is available on the web. If Councils consider that negotiation or mediation between the parties might be useful, they should direct them towards other organisations, such as any local community mediation service. It is important that any such negotiation is carried out by people other than those who will be deciding any formal complaint in order that the Council is clearly seen to be fair and impartial.

As a complainant, what evidence of attempting to resolve the problem with my neighbour am I required to give the Council?

This will depend on how well you get on with your neighbours. Further information on the steps you can take to settle your hedge differences is in the leaflet Over the garden hedge. Keep a record of what you've done - eg copies of letters or a diary - that you can show to the Council. It won't be enough to say your neighbour is not approachable.

Further information is in paragraphs 5.25 to 5.30 of High Hedges Complaints: Prevention and Cure.

There is no mediation service in the area. What can I do?

People are not required to go through mediation before submitting a hedge complaint to the Council. Mediation is recommended as a good way of settling neighbour disputes. But, if there is no mediation service near you, it is obviously not reasonable to expect you to try it. You should, however, have tried the other steps suggested in the leaflet Over the garden hedge to sort things out with your neighbour.

Is it possible to forecast whether a complaint will be successful?

Given the balancing exercise that Councils have to carry out in order to determine whether a hedge is adversely affecting the reasonable enjoyment of the complainant's property, it is not easy to predict the outcome in any particular case. However, the detailed guidance on handling high hedge complaints in High Hedges Complaints: Prevention and Cure is not just for Councils. In particular, Chapter 5: Assessing and Weighing the Evidence explains how Councils might assess various grounds of complaint. Both potential complainants and hedge owners can also use this information to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of their case.

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