The right hedge can be an ideal garden boundary but the wrong hedge can cause problems. Problems can occur for example, if a hedge is allowed to grow unchecked, particularly without considering its effect on neighbours.

The Introduction of The High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011

The High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 came into operation on 31st March 2012. It provides a new legal basis for taking action over a problem hedge in that it introduces a formal complaints system that will be operated by District Councils.

What is a High Hedge?

For the purposes of the Act, a High Hedge is defined as a line of two or more evergreen or semi-evergreen trees or shrubs that are more than two metres tall and are acting as a barrier to light. The hedge can contain some deciduous trees or shrubs provided it is predominantly evergreen or semi-evergreen.

The Act applies to conifers and other evergreen trees or shrubs, such as laurel and holly. It does not include climbing plants, such as ivy, or bamboo.

Who can complain?

Only the owner or occupier of a domestic property can bring a complaint.

What High Hedges can be complained about?

Any High Hedge, situated on another property, which is having an adverse effect on the reasonable enjoyment of a domestic property through acting as a barrier to light.

Is there a legal height for a hedge?

No, a hedge may be any height – there is no restriction. However the Act applies to evergreen and semi-evergreen hedges over 2 metres in height that are acting as a barrier to light.

What should I do about a hedge that is causing problems to their property?

Under common law rights you are entitled to cut overhanging branches back to you boundary provided the cut material is offered back to the owner of the tree, shrub or hedge and there are no other legal restrictions, such as a Tree Preservation Order applying.

If the problem hedge is acting as a barrier to light then the first thing you need to do is contact the hedge owner and try to agree measures to resolve the matter. It is important that you keep a record of your negotiations with the hedge owner because if you subsequently decide, as a last resort, that you need to  take things further you will have to prove that you have taken all other reasonable steps to resolve the matter.

If you are experiencing any difficulties with your neighbour’s hedge or require any further information on this topic contact our Residential Property department or call 02890 231770.