Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Postby petnanny » Fri Apr 21, 2017 9:49 pm

I moved into our property in September and discovered that we have an extremely tall (approximately 28+ feet) what we believe to be laurel hedges (double thickness), on the other side of our garden fence at the bottom of the garden.

We have been trying to establish who is responsible for these hedges since they are blocking the sunlight into our garden, pushing against our fence and if one toppled over, it would demolish our conservatory.

The solicitor has discovered that they are owned by a company that we think could be a management company that was set up by the builders of the houses at the back of our property and we need to know exactly where we stand legally.

They are certainly not maintained and for the reasons mentioned above, we really do need to get something done. It appears from the research I have done that we are not entitled to light in our garden, but surely they should be maintaining the hedges, so they do not overhang our garden and cause damage to our fence. It would be hugely expensive for us to take action and if we reduced the height could we be open to a solicitors letter and at worse, court action?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, since we would love the opportunity to enjoy our garden, but at the moment that is impossible :cry:
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Re: Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Postby despair » Fri Apr 21, 2017 11:07 pm

Simply cannot believe anyone would not notice a 28ft high laurel hedge at the back of the garden when looking at a house purchase

the only right you have is to cut back right to the boundary
you can offer the cuttings back to the owner but they do not have to accept them

If the company is not willing to cut the hedge your only recourse is the High Hedge Law but that will involve a specific route to follow plus a hefty fee to the Local Council
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Re: Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Postby Collaborate » Fri Apr 21, 2017 11:19 pm

One alternative is to simply just cut them back. They're not yours, but only the owner can do something about it. If they don't even manage the land, or don't care about it, they may be unlikely to do anything.

Not the legal thing to do, but might be the most practical.
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Re: Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Postby mr sheen » Sat Apr 22, 2017 7:33 am

You refer to a solicitor being involved, so you have a professional legal adviser advising on this matter who will have advised you.

You have the right to cut back anything that overhangs your boundary and no more.

You can ask the owner nicely to reduce the height but they have the right to have a hedge on their land and if it is Laurel, it has been deliberately planted for their benefit/enjoyment.

You can check if the hedge comes under High Hedge legislation but casting shadows on a garden is unlikely to.

If the property isn't suitable for you, you can always move...perhaps you will look at the property carefully next time so that a 28ft hedge doesn't come as such a surprise.
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Re: Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Postby TO » Sat Apr 22, 2017 8:27 pm

As others have said you can cut back to the boundary all that encroaches. You must offer the stuff you cut off back to the hedge owner. If they decline the offer you should dispose of the stuff in a responsible manner. The cost of doing this will fall on your shoulders.

Regards the height. Ask the management company if they will reduce the height. They might. But keep a record of your visit, who you spoke to, what if anything was agreed, dates, time etc. If no joy write to them asking for the hedge to be reduced by Xm, keep a copy of the letter. If still no joy write to them a last time requesting they reduce the hedge Xm or you will pursue a formal high hedge complaint.

The hedge, from your description, is one to which the high hedges legislation clearly applies. Loss of light to a garden, as well as the dwelling house, is a consideration, and calculated using the spread sheet. Overbearing, dominating the garden, especially if it's a small garden would also be material. Bear in mind that each complaint is judged on its merits and no one on here has seen it, and there is a fee to pay.

Regards the hedge pushing on the fence. If it's causing damage you need to tell the management company so they can do something about it. Then put them on notice that if further damage occurs they will be liable for any repairs from then on. The problem here is proving what damage pre-existed you putting them on notice when you make a claim. Hence it would be advisable to repair the fence so you start with a clean slate/no damage.
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Re: Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Postby petnanny » Mon Apr 24, 2017 10:50 am

TO wrote:As others have said you can cut back to the boundary all that encroaches. You must offer the stuff you cut off back to the hedge owner. If they decline the offer you should dispose of the stuff in a responsible manner. The cost of doing this will fall on your shoulders.

Regards the height. Ask the management company if they will reduce the height. They might. But keep a record of your visit, who you spoke to, what if anything was agreed, dates, time etc. If no joy write to them asking for the hedge to be reduced by Xm, keep a copy of the letter. If still no joy write to them a last time requesting they reduce the hedge Xm or you will pursue a formal high hedge complaint.

The hedge, from your description, is one to which the high hedges legislation clearly applies. Loss of light to a garden, as well as the dwelling house, is a consideration, and calculated using the spread sheet. Overbearing, dominating the garden, especially if it's a small garden would also be material. Bear in mind that each complaint is judged on its merits and no one on here has seen it, and there is a fee to pay.

Regards the hedge pushing on the fence. If it's causing damage you need to tell the management company so they can do something about it. Then put them on notice that if further damage occurs they will be liable for any repairs from then on. The problem here is proving what damage pre-existed you putting them on notice when you make a claim. Hence it would be advisable to repair the fence so you start with a clean slate/no damage.


Thank you so much for your advise.

Of course we noticed them on the viewing, but did not consider that they could prohibit the light coming into our garden.

We have discovered that they were planted by a company that has absolutely no contact details or telephone number, but given the details on companies house it looks like they are a management company run by and for the residents of the close behind our property. Unsure if this is good or bad news, but they clearly do no maintenance since the hedges are now approximately 6 metres high and still growing!

My husband has MS so it is going to be a real struggle for us to cut down the overhanging foliage, but as people quite rightly pointed out, we purchased the property knowing they were there!
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Re: Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Postby arborlad » Mon Apr 24, 2017 12:03 pm

petnanny wrote:We have discovered that they were planted by a company that has absolutely no contact details or telephone number,




Not sure if you are confusing matters, but it is not which company planted them but whose land they are planted on.
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smile...it confuses people
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Re: Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Postby Morgan Sweet » Sat May 20, 2017 7:57 am

I think that your best option is arrange to cut back the trees hard to protect your fence. In my opinion there is no need to offer branches back, just dispose of them.
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Re: Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Postby MacadamB53 » Sat May 20, 2017 8:40 am

Hi Morgan Sweet,

In my opinion there is no need to offer branches back, just dispose of them.

taking something belonging to someone else and depriving them of it, which is what you describe above, is a criminal offence called "theft":

s1 of the Theft Act 1968 includes the following:

(1) A person is guilty of theft, if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.
(2) It is immaterial whether the appropriation is made with a view to gain, or is made for the thief’s own benefit.

I think, though, that the likelihood of facing criminal charges in the scenario you describe is remote so in that regard there is no need to offer the arisings - is that what you were meaning too?

Kind regards, Mac
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Re: Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Postby Morgan Sweet » Sat May 20, 2017 9:22 am

Yes, Mac. As I have written before I have never known of any case in recent years where someone has a criminal record for cutting a neighbour's hedge and not offering the cuttings back. (Although I am happy to be corrected; I have no legal qualifications whatsoever.) Common sense should prevail in that if a branch of fruit were to be taken that had value then perhaps a case could be brought, but it would still surprise me. However I would advise a neighbour to offer the fruit back in that scenario.

Seeking out the legal owners of the laurel trees in order to offer the cuttings back is in my view unnecessary. It is regularly stressed that people MUST offer the cuttings back, if that were to be how the criminal law would be used then the countryside/gardens would be very overgrown.

I do again stress I am not legally qualified, it is just my experience of many decades of trimming hedges.
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Re: Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Postby mugwump » Sat May 20, 2017 10:12 am

If you MUST offer he cuttings back then my take is that if they are not contactable or refuse to say yea or nay then as it is their property then it should be returned to them as anything else would be considered theft.

Some people argue that it would be fly tipping to return them without permission but you then have a Catch 22 situation of whatever you do is a criminal offence. I doubt you can/should be prosecuted successfully for returning somebody's property
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Re: Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Postby thin and crispy » Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:06 pm

mugwump wrote:If you MUST offer he cuttings back then my take is that if they are not contactable or refuse to say yea or nay then as it is their property then it should be returned to them as anything else would be considered theft.

Some people argue that it would be fly tipping to return them without permission but you then have a Catch 22 situation of whatever you do is a criminal offence. I doubt you can/should be prosecuted successfully for returning somebody's property

This is precisely what I have been advised by police.
Prejudice, not being founded on reason, cannot be removed by argument. Samuel Johnson.
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Re: Legality of reducing a laurel hedge

Postby jdfi » Wed Jun 21, 2017 8:00 am

28 feet! Thats a double decker bus up-ended!

I too would be tempted to break the law: get a team of tree surgeons in and have the height reduced to something like 8 feet.

Yes you have committed a civil wrong, yes you may be taken to county court, yes you have committed a crime and may be taken to the Magistrates, but you will have an airy garden which in the circumstances would be priceless.

Its an assessment of risk. As you say, if Laurel comes crashing down on your fence and conservatory, and if there were children in there....

Isnt Laurel deciduous? If so, is it even covered by the High Hedge Act?

If you do decide to be naughty, try to get your timing right.

Are other houses either side of you affected by this 28 feet high hedge?

Is there a 'social class' difference between the streets?
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