Legal challenges in hedge rows trimmed by high fee?

Fife Council has powers to force owners to cut back their high hedges.
Fife Council has powers to force owners to cut back their high hedges.

Councillors have raised concerns that people involved in rows over high hedges are being put off going down a legal route by the cost.

The High Hedges (Scotland) Act came into force in April last year, allowing people to apply to the Council to rule in disputes between neighbours.

In the past 12 months, there have been 14 applications made in Fife, a much lower number than had been anticipated.

That has prompted several councillors to question whether the application fee of £382 – now increasing to £385 – was putting people off.

SNP councillor Bryan Goodall said: “I think for many people it’s a lot of money.”

And Conservative councillor Dave Dempsey added: “Allowing a hedge to grow too high is a form of anti-social behaviour.

“If someone raises concerns over noise or noncompliance with planning conditions, we don’t charge them to make a complaint.”

Mark Russell, lead officer, said he was not aware of anyone being put off submitting an application due to the level of the fee.

He also pointed out that many disputes were being resolved without having to go down the legal route, and praised service manager Stuart Wilson for his work in this area.

“Stuart is very good at talking to the people involved and getting a compromise before getting to this level,” said Mr Russell. “For the most part, that’s reflected in the number of applications we’ve had to deal with.”

Under the High Hedges (Scotland) Act, the Council has powers to address problem hedges by issuing High Hedge Notices to owners specifying work which must be carried out.

The Council also has the powers to carry out work when owners fail to do so, and powers to recover the costs of the work.