Scotland politics

High hedges bill set to come into effect across Scotland

Image caption The Bill will define what is classed as a 'high hedge' in disputes between neighbours

New laws aimed at resolving disputes between neighbours over the height of garden hedges are set to come into effect across Scotland.

The High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013 will provide a solution when problems are caused by hedges which grow over two metres tall and block out light.

The bill defines what a high hedge is and sets out a process to resolve disagreements between neighbours.

It will come into force on 1 April, following unanimous backing from MSPs.

Local Government and Planning Minister Derek Mackay said the legislation would "provide a route by which neighbours involved in a dispute can resolve the issue".

He said: "Unlike fences or walls that require planning permission if they are over two metres tall, there is no restriction on planting trees or shrubs to form a hedge, which, if planted in an unsuitable location, or not maintained, can cause disputes between neighbours.

"There remains an expectation that people should take all reasonable steps to resolve the issue themselves. However, there may be occasions when this isn't possible.

"In those situations, the act will allow people to make an application to their local authority to intervene, and if the hedge is a barrier to light, then action can be taken."

Council powers

The act will give homeowners and occupiers the right to apply to their local council for a high hedge notice and empowers the authority to enforce decisions made in relation to high hedges in their local area.

Guidance has been issued to all of Scotland's councils on their responsibilities under the act. They will act as independent and impartial adjudicators, taking into account the positions of each party in a dispute, before making a decision.

If householders fail to comply with the new law, the council could use its powers to enter the land, carry out work on the hedge itself and charge the owner for any expenses.

Laws on high hedges have been adopted in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as on the Isle of Man.

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