A hedge is often preferred to a fence when being used to separate the boundary between two adjoining properties. It can be more aesthetically pleasing and add character to a property, not to mention the fact that it provides both shelter and food to a vast number of wildlife species. So, that’s the good news. What’s the bad?

Hedges can sometimes cause disputes between neighbours when they become unkempt, when the roots start to spread, or if the hedge becomes too high and begins to affects the amount of sunlight reaching a neighbour’s property. There are numerous legal rights, obligations and restrictions when it comes to hedges which are outlined below.

Your Rights

You do not usually need to obtain permission to plant a hedge in your garden if it is solely within your property’s boundary. However, you do need to obtain permission from your next door neighbour if you’re considering planting a hedge to separate the adjoining properties right on the boundary line. Provided there are no Boundary Disputes, and if both parties agree to the hedge, you will usually both be responsible for the maintenance of the hedge on your own sides. You can cut the hedge right back to your neighbour’s boundary, although there are some exceptions to this.

What are the Restrictions?

If you reside in a particular conservation area or any trees which form part of the hedge are under a tree preservation order, you may need to obtain permission from your local authority to cut back or remove a hedge. Some properties have Legal Covenants which state both the size and the height you can grow a hedge, and any further information will usually be contained in your property deeds. It’s also against the law to trim back or remove any hedges in which birds may be nesting. You should inspect the hedge first before going ahead with any pruning. If you’re still uncertain about this, the best bet is not to cut back a hedge between March and September, just in case.

Your Obligations

Sometimes a hedge can become overgrown and overhang the pavement outside your property. In this instance, your local authority can force you to cut it back or even to remove, it if it’s causing a danger or obstruction to pedestrians on the pavement.

Up until a few years ago, there was no legal restriction on how high you could grow a hedge but that changed in 2005. If you cannot come to an agreement on the hedge, you need to submit a complaint to your local authority with the reasons why you want a restriction placed on the height of a neighbour’s hedge (usually it’s because of a high hedge reducing the amount of direct sunlight a neighbour’s garden might receive). There is normally a charge to have this matter investigated which is usually about £350, although fees can vary between local authorities.

Just as with trees, if a hedge borders your property but is solely owned by your neighbour, it is their duty to maintain it even on your side. However, if you come to an agreement whereby you wish to maintain your side, if you trim back any part of the hedge, you should ask your neighbour what he wants you to do with the clippings. If it’s his hedge, you have every right to ask him to dispose of the clippings, although most people will just simply do that themselves. Where roots are establishing themselves on your side of the hedge, you have the right to dig them out but, again, you must ask your neighbour what he wants doing with them.

More often than not, no matter who owns the hedge, most neighbours of adjoining properties will simply maintain their side of the hedge. However, it is important to understand the legal position on hedges just in case any disputes arise.