The definition of a hedge is 'a line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs of more than two metres in height, or a hedgerow that is predominantly evergreen'. These include cypresses such as leylandii, and other conifers such as yew, laurel, and box. Individual trees and shrubs are not included.
If you have a dispute about a high hedge, you will need to try to resolve the matter by talking with your neighbour first. However, if they won't talk to you, or you are nervous about speaking to them, try sending a polite letter. Keep a record of the steps you take, for example, copies of letters or a diary. If this fails, you should invite them to talk to independent mediators who can help you to find a way forward. Details of the Mid-Surrey Mediation Service can be found on this page. Further information on settling your dispute can be found in the leaflet 'Over the garden hedge', available via the link on this page.
If an agreement cannot be reached, you should let your neighbour know that you will be making a formal complaint to Mole Valley District Council (MVDC). More information about the process can be found in the leaflet 'High hedges: Complaining to the Council'. MVDC charges a fee to deal with your complaint. Details can be found below. If MVDC cannot proceed with the complaint, the council will tell you why, and the fee will be refunded.
In determining complaints, MVDC will gather information from the complainant and the hedge owner, and a site visit will be carried out. A complaint may take at least 12 weeks to investigate, but there is no specific time limit within which MVDC must reach a decision.
The council may issue a remedial notice that will require works on problem hedges. However, MVDC does not have powers to require that hedges should be reduced to less than two metres in height. The notice may also require that hedges be maintained at a reasonable height in the future. The time limit for carrying out the works will be given in the notice and will be reasonable. Care must be taken to protect nesting birds if cutting a hedge between March and August.
The owner has a right of appeal against a remedial notice, which has to be made within 28 days of the notice being served. Appeals are dealt with independently by the Planning Inspectorate. More information, and details of how to submit a form, can be found using the links on this page.
MVDC has the power to take enforcement action if the terms of a remedial notice are not fulfilled, and failure to comply can incur a fine up to £1000 in a magistrates court.
The current fee (2013/14) charged by MVDC to deal with your complaint is £580.