Boundary Hedge Removal Law: Everything You Need To Know From Pruning To Permission

emily gordon brown
Emily Gordon BrownLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 22nd May 2024

Boundary hedge removal laws might not be the most exciting topic, but if you don’t know the rules it could land you in hot water with your neighbour or local council. These laws aren’t just about keeping your garden neat, they’re about who owns what and what you’re allowed to do with hedges that mark the edges of your land. 

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In this article, we’ll break down boundary hardge removal law from trimming hedges to removing them altogether.

What are boundary hedges? 

A boundary hedge is a hedge that marks the dividing line between two properties. It’s often planted along the edge of a property and serves as a natural barrier. 

Who owns a boundary hedge? 

Ownership of a boundary hedge typically depends on the legal principle of "presumed ownership."

In general, if a hedge straddles the boundary line between two properties, it is presumed to be jointly owned by the owners of those properties. This means that both property owners have a shared responsibility for the maintenance and care of the hedge.

In some cases, property owners may enter into agreements or arrangements regarding a boundary hedge. For example, they may agree to split the cost of trimming the hedge or to take turns carrying out maintenance tasks.

Can I remove a boundary hedge without my neighbour’s permission? 

As mentioned, a boundary hedge is typically presumed to be jointly owned by the owners of the adjacent properties. As such, removing the hedge without your neighbour's agreement could be seen as a violation of their property rights.

Therefore, it's essential to communicate with your neighbour about any plans to remove a boundary hedge. Discussing your reasons for wanting to remove the hedge and addressing any concerns they may have can help avoid misunderstandings and potential neighbour disputes.

If you do remove a boundary hedge without your neighbour's permission and they object, they may take legal action against you. This could result in a court order requiring you to replace the hedge or compensate your neighbour for any damage or loss of amenity caused by its removal.

What if my neighbour wants to remove the boundary hedge and I don’t? 

If there is a disagreement about removing a boundary hedge, it’s best to try and resolve it amicably through discussion.

If no agreement can be reached, legal advice may be necessary to determine the rights and responsibilities of each party. 

Do I need permission to plant a hedge? 

Generally, planting a hedge on your property for landscaping or decorative purposes doesn't require planning permission. However, if you plan to plant a hedge that may affect your neighbours (for example, if it's tall and might block sunlight or views), it's considerate to inform them of your intentions.

If you're planting a hedge along a boundary with a neighbouring property, it's essential to establish the boundary line accurately to avoid disputes in the future. You may want to consult with a land surveyor to ensure the hedge is planted within your property's boundaries.

Furthermore, if you're planting a hedge in a conservation area or on land with specific environmental designations, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), there may be additional regulations or guidelines to consider. 

What is a high hedges notice?

If a neighbour is affected by your high hedge, they can complain to their local council.

If the council determines that the hedge meets the criteria, they will issue a High Hedges Notice. This notice outlines the concerns raised and action to be taken, such as trimming the hedge to a specified height, removing or reducing its density, or taking other measures to mitigate its impact on neighbouring properties.

Do I need permission to trim or maintain a boundary hedge?

While you have the right to trim or maintain a boundary hedge on your property, it's important to inform your neighbours before carrying out any significant work. This is especially true if the hedge extends onto their property or trimming might impact their side of the boundary.

If the boundary hedge is shared between you and your neighbour, both parties typically have a legal responsibility for its maintenance. This means you can trim the hedge up to the boundary line, but you can't remove it or carry out extensive work on it without the agreement of your neighbour.

Before trimming a hedge, especially during the nesting season (typically March to August), it's also essential to check for any nesting birds or other wildlife using the hedge as a habitat. It's illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to disturb nesting birds or damage their nests.

What if my neighbour’s boundary hedge is encroaching on my property?

In many cases, neighbour disputes can be resolved through open communication and cooperation.

The best way to deal with this is to approach your neighbour calmly and politely to discuss the encroachment. They may not realise that the hedge is encroaching on your property and may be willing to address the problem by trimming the hedge to the property boundary line or relocating it.

If discussions and mediation are unsuccessful, or if your neighbour refuses to address the encroachment, it may be necessary to seek legal advice.

A solicitor can advise you on your legal rights and options for resolving the dispute, which may include legal action to enforce your property boundaries.

Are there any restrictions on the height of a boundary hedge? 

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, there is legislation known as the High Hedges Act 2005. This legislation provides a legal framework for resolving disputes between neighbours regarding the height of high hedges. 

Under this law, a high hedge is defined as a line of two or more trees or shrubs that forms a barrier to light or access. If a hedge meets the criteria for a high hedge and is causing problems for neighbouring properties, affected parties can apply to their local council for intervention.

Even if there are no specific height restrictions in place, it's essential to consider the impact of your boundary hedge on neighbouring properties. An excessively tall hedge may block sunlight, views, or airflow for adjacent properties, leading to high hedge disputes or complaints from neighbours.

What if I want to replace a boundary hedge with a fence? 

Before replacing the boundary hedge with a fence, you should confirm the ownership of the hedge and accurately establish the boundary line between your property and your neighbour's property. This may involve consulting property deeds, surveys, or land registry documents.

Once you've confirmed ownership and boundaries, discuss your plans with your neighbour. Let them know why you want to replace the hedge with a fence and how it might benefit them.

Depending on the circumstances, you may agree to share the cost of installing the fence. If you do, it's advisable to have a written agreement outlining the cost-sharing arrangement to avoid disputes later on.

Before installing a new fence, you should also check with your local planning authority to find out if planning permission is required. In most cases, replacing a hedge with a fence will not require planning permission, but there may be restrictions on fence height, particularly in front gardens or conservation areas.

How can I resolve disputes about boundary hedges with my neighbour?

If you're unable to resolve a dispute about a boundary hedge with your neighbour directly, mediation or legal advice may be necessary.

Seeking assistance from a qualified solicitor can help you understand your rights and options for resolving the issue.

Is it against the law to remove hedges? 

If the hedge is solely on your property and does not mark a boundary between properties, you generally have the right to remove it without seeking permission from your neighbour. However, if the hedge is a boundary hedge, removing the hedge without the consent of your neighbour could lead to legal disputes.

Local authorities may also have regulations governing the removal of hedges, especially if they serve as habitat for wildlife or contribute to the character of the area. Some areas have Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) or conservation area designations that protect certain trees and hedges from removal without permission.

Finally, depending on the size, location, and type of hedge, removing it may require planning permission from your local planning authority. This is particularly relevant if the hedge is substantial, forms part of a hedge row, or is in a designated conservation area.

What are hedgerow regulations in the UK? 

Hedgerow regulations in the UK primarily refer to the Hedgerows Regulations 1997. These regulations were introduced to protect important hedgerows, particularly those with ecological, historical, or landscape significance. Here's an overview of the key points:

Under the regulations, anyone intending to remove certain hedgerows must notify their local planning authority at least six weeks in advance. This applies to hedgerows that meet specific criteria, including length, location, and species composition.

Not all hedgerow removals are subject to the notification process. Exemptions include routine maintenance, removals for safety reasons, removals authorised under other legislation (such as planning permission), and removals for agricultural operations.

Failure to comply with the regulations, including removing a protected hedgerow without notification or before the expiration of a retention notice, can result in penalties including fines or restoration orders, requiring the replanting or restoration of the hedgerow.

How can Lawhive help?

Understanding your rights and responsibilities regarding boundary hedges is crucial for maintaining good relations with your neighbours and staying compliant with the law. Whether you're considering trimming, removing, or replacing a boundary hedge, communication, cooperation, and legal awareness are key.

Should you need advice on boundary hedge removal law, our network of licensed solicitors is on hand to help you understand your rights and navigate neighbour disputes that threaten to strain relationships.

Contact our Legal Assessment Team today for further information and a fixed-fee quote for the services of a specialist lawyer.

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