Committee Backs Cuts to High Hedges

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 20 January 2011

Reference: ENV 07/10/11

The Assembly Committee for the Environment today released its report on the High Hedges Bill, which details measures for dealing with high hedges that are obstructive or block light. The Bill will provide the opportunity for people who are unable to resolve disputes over high hedges to take their complaint to their local council.

Committee Chairperson, Cathal Boylan MLA said: “Having reviewed the Bill put forward by the Department of the Environment the Committee has agreed to recommend three amendments to the Bill.

“The Committee would like to see some provision for dealing with single evergreen trees. Nearly half (43 percent) of Councils that responded to the Department’s consultation want to see single evergreen trees included in the Bill and the Committee agrees this is an issue that needs to be tackled. However, the Department suggests that single evergreen trees fall outside the scope of this Bill. If this is found to be the case then we will be looking to the Department to solve this problem through other channels.

“The Committee also wants to see amendments to the proposals for Councils to charge fees for people to make a complaint about a high hedge. The Committee accepts the proposal that Councils should be allowed to charge a discretionary fee, but the Committee believes the Department must set an upper limit. Having looked at the wide range of fees applied by Councils in England the Committee believes it is important that a cap is imposed. Without this Councils could apply unreasonably high fees which would make it impossible for people to make a complaint. This would be very obstructive and would essentially render the Bill ineffective.

“Most importantly, the Committee wants to see any fees charged for making a complaint transferred to the hedge owner if the complaint is upheld. The Committee accepts that introducing a fee for complaining will ensure that complaints are genuine and all other avenues for solving the problem have been tried. However it believes it is unfair that the complainant has to bear the cost of that fee should their complaint be found to be valid.”

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