High Hedges

If your home is affected by a high hedge, you can make a complaint to Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) under Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003.

For the purposes of this legislation, the definition of a high hedge is:

a line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs of more than two metres in height, or a screen that is predominantly evergreen.

These include:

  • Cypresses such as Leylandii
  • Other conifers such as Yew and Laurel

Individual trees and shrubs are outside the scope of the legislation, and are not included.

High hedge disputes

The owner or occupier of an affected ‘residential’ property can make a complaint about a high hedge to us.

High hedge complaints are a last resort, and you must demonstrate that you have taken all reasonable steps to come to an amicable solution with the hedge owner for at least three months before involving us.

If the neighbour is unwilling to talk to you or you are nervous about speaking to them, it is recommended that you send a polite letter.

Keep a record of the steps you take and when, and copies of any letters you send.

If this fails, you should invite them to talk to independent mediators who can help you to find a way forward.

For more information, visit Mediation Surrey.

Guidance on how to settle your hedge differences can be found on GOV.UK.

Procedure for dealing with hedge disputes

If an agreement cannot be reached, you should let the hedge owner know that you will be making a formal complaint to us.

More guidance can be found on GOV.UK.

The current (2023/24) fee for us to investigate your complaint is £918.

If we cannot proceed with the complaint, the reason(s) will be explained and the fee refunded.

In assessing complaints, we will gather information from both sides, and a site visit will be carried out.

Blocking of light will be the most significant factor in deciding high hedge complaints.

An assessment and calculations will be made to work out an ‘Action Hedge Height’.

This will not necessarily be the final hedge height, as other factors will need to be taken into account, including:

  • privacy
  • screening
  • blocking of views
  • potential value of hedges as wind breaks

Problems relating to root activity (e.g. subsidence, roots taking moisture from the soil and affecting other plants and blocking of drains) are specifically excluded from this legislation and will not be considered by us.

A complaint may take at least 12 weeks to investigate, but there is no specific time limit in which we must reach a decision.

The height to which it will be appropriate to reduce a specific hedge will depend on the circumstances of each case, and we do not have powers to require that hedges be lowered to less than two metres in height, or indeed to half their height.

View the method of calculating the minimum hedge height by using the High hedge calculator.

If considered appropriate, we may issue a remedial notice that will require works on problem hedges and for them to be maintained at a reasonable height in the future.

The notice becomes a ‘charge’ on the property, and legal obligations under such a notice pass to any subsequent owners. The time limit for carrying out the works will be given in the notice, and will be reasonable in terms of giving the hedge owner the opportunity to enlist the services of a contractor, if necessary, and make arrangements for the works to be carried out.

Care must also be taken to protect nesting birds if cutting a hedge between March and August to avoid contravening wildlife protection legislation.

Appeals against a decision

The owner and complainant have a right of appeal against a remedial notice within 28 days of its service.

Appeals are dealt with independently by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State. Appeals against the remedial notice may be made on the grounds that it either goes too far or does not go far enough.

We have the power to take enforcement action if a remedial notice is not complied with, and failure to comply can incur a fine up to £1000 in a magistrates’ court.

Further fines could be incurred if compliance is not forthcoming after the first court appearance. We also have the powers to enter land and carry out works required by a remedial notice, and recover its expenses in so doing from the hedge owner.

Overgrown trees and vegetation

Report a tree or vegetation issue to Surrey County Council, for example, an overgrown hedge or tree, which is causing a problem for pedestrians or road users.