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Hedge Cutting and TrimmingHedges

Hedges can fill a multitude of purposes in the urban landscape, providing both privacy, boundary delineation and structure to a garden.

Many ornamental plants, both trees and shrubs, are well suited for hedges, but selection of a specific plant should be made by considering the particular purpose of the hedge and the growing conditions at the desired site.

Most formal deciduous hedges will need reshaping at least twice a season. Usually, pruning when the plants are at the desired height and then later in the year.

Often new property owners find themselves having to tackle an overgrown neglected hedge. If the hedge is of the deciduous type, there are two choices, depending on the specific plant involved. If the hedge is not too badly overgrown, cut back the sides and top, approximately 6 inches more than is desired for the eventual finished hedge. This ‘minor cutback’ allows a new twiggy outside layer to form which may be pruned to the desired size in several stages. If the hedge is badly overgrown, some plant species may be completely cut back to within 6-12 inches of the ground However, do not assume all plant species will respond favourably to this treatment. In many cases, the entire hedge should be removed and replanted with more suitable hedging plants. For cutting, use a large lopper or saw to remove large stems. This ‘complete cutback’ technique works especially well with privet and forsythia. Train the new growth as if you were starting a new hedge.

Whilst most hedge arguments stem from the hedge being allowed to grow too high and block light, everyone must remember that the law protects wildlife. It is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built. It will be an intentional act, for example, if you or your neighbour know there is an active nest in the hedge, and still cut the hedge, damaging or destroying the nest in the process.

High Hedges and the law; The facts

  • The legislation does not require all hedges to be cut down to a height of 2 metres
  • You do not have to get permission to grow a hedge above 2 metres
  • When a hedge grows over 2 metres the local authority does not automatically take action, unless a justifiable complaint has been made
  • If you complain to your local authority, it does not automatically follow that they will order your neighbour to reduce the height of their hedge. They have to weigh up all the issues and consider each case on its merits
  • The legislation does not cover single or deciduous trees
  • The local authority cannot require the hedge to be removed
  • The legislation does not guarantee access to uninterrupted light There is no provision to serve an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO) in respect of high hedge complaints.

We are often asked for an opinion on high hedges and overhanging branches. Whilst we try to recommend an amicable agreement with a neighbour we understand that this is not always possible. We ask that where possible you obtain permission to cut another persons trees or hedges. Please find below 2 simple quotes that shed light on the legal position.

A tree or hedge belongs to the owner of the land it is growing on and, under common law, that person is responsible for managing and maintaining it so that it is not a nuisance to anyone else – in the same way that they are responsible for looking after any other part of their property.

Where the branches of a tree or hedge cause a nuisance by trespassing onto an adjoining property, the common law allows the neighbour to remedy this by cutting back to the boundary any overhanging branches – provided there are no other legal restrictions in place, such as a tree preservation order.