High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Dave_S
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High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by Dave_S » Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:24 pm

Hi All,

First post here so I'm hoping this is the right section. I'm after some advice on the High Hedge Act on behalf of my neighbour. I've read the legislation and understand in broad terms what the implications are but my neighbour has quite an unusual situation which isn't clear-cut as far as the legislation is concerned.

Background to the story: both myself and my neighbour live in the end houses of a cul-de-sac (near Halifax, West Yorkshire) and behind our gardens was a scrappy bit of waste ground about 90 metres long by 10 metres wide (so about 900 square metres in plan area altogether). Beyond this is a single-track road then some more houses. This scrappy bit of land had remained undeveloped since before anyone can remember and it's the kind of land that you'd never think anyone would really want to build on (as it's so small with difficult access via single track road).

My neighbour's house was actually owned by her mum originally and she planted some conifer-type trees on the boundary between her back garden and the scrappy bit of land about 70 years ago. She then passed the house to her daughter, who's now in her late 60's. The trees have now got to about 10-12m in height and provide a good privacy screen. So yes the trees are tall but previously they didn't bother anyone. There was no loss of view, loss of sunlight etc suffered by anyone as they only affected aforementioned bit of undeveloped land.

Fast forward to 2015 and a developer bought the scrappy bit of land and proposed to build 8 three-storey town houses on it. Despite a lot of local objection and concerns within the Council Highways dept. about road safety, plot size etc) the development got planning anyway and went ahead. So there are now eight 3-bed three-storey town houses on a plot of land about 900 square metres in size.

Because the site is so small they had to angle the houses to make them fit (site is only 10m wide) and have also basically rammed the houses right up against my neighbour's boundary. They have already cut back her conifer trees width-wise and they were overhanging the site somewhat. Unfortunately for the people now renting the houses (they are rented not sold) their living room / lounge was built at the back of the house and is basically right up against the boundary / tree line.

They have complained to the developer (who is renting the houses to them) and the developer is now taking my neighbour to court and trying to force her to chop the trees down to 2m in height using the High Hedge Act. She has had to hire her own solicitor and also a tree specialist who has said the trees are now so tall and well-established that cutting them back significantly would likely kill them. Also the task to chop them down is large so would likely cost approx. £3k, which she would have to pay.

She also she got an estate agent to re-value the house accounting for the total lack of privacy she would suffer - basically the view is currently of a line of mature trees but if removed it would be of a row of town houses that would directly overlook her garden and house. The estate agent estimated a loss of value from the house in the region of £15-20k because of this.

She has discussed her concerns with the local Council but they have stated that as far as the High Hedge Act is concerned, the preceding conditions of the site do not matter. That basically, if you have an established row of trees that have not caused anyone any concern for 50+ years, then someone decides to build a house up against the tree, they are within their right to make you remove it if it blocks their light.

I also understand that the Act is there to preserve an existing view. However, there was no pre-existing view since the houses are new, and if the trees are removed the view would consist of my neighbours garden and her house! So I don't see how the "view" argument could be used.

The whole situation seems completely ridiculous to me - surely there must be some accounting of the previous conditions? The developer knew full-well this would be a problem as my neighbour wrote them, objected via the Planning Portal, got her own tree survey done which highlighted the issues etc. It doesn't seem right for the developer to be able to ride rough-shod over her like this and basically steal approx. £20k from her for their own benefit.

I was hoping someone may have experienced or know about a similar situation, in that the REASONS for a lack of light are taken into account rather than just that there IS a lack of light. As far as I can tell the developer engineered a situation in which the current tenants have a problem due to the developers bad design and greed (cramming as many houses into a tiny plot of land as possible) but the downside is borne by other people (my neighbour who currently faces losses of £20k+ and also the tenants who have to live in these tiny houses with no light).

I'd also like to know the Developer is within their right to bring a complaint against my neighbour ON BEHALF OF their tenants. My understanding of the Act was that the occupiers had to do it, and that each complaint had to be made individually (there are 4 new houses that are affected).

Thanks for your patience and any advice!

tl;dr: developer bought small parcel of land behind my neighbour, built houses right into her tree line and is now using the High Hedge Act to make her cut them down. She faces financial loss of £20k+. Can High Hedge Act be used this way?

despair
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by despair » Tue Apr 24, 2018 5:38 pm

Has your neighbour got hold of every shred of the documents submitted for the planning etc for these townhouses

Because usually the fact trees exist as a screen is why planning is granted and thus they cannot later demand removal of that screen

Collaborate
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by Collaborate » Tue Apr 24, 2018 6:36 pm

I think they're right, and there can be no defence that the trees came before the houses. That would be a consideration in a claim for an established right to light.

Despair makes a good point.

despair
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by despair » Tue Apr 24, 2018 6:45 pm

the neighbour needs to be very very sure thay have every shred of documents used in planning

All too often vital bits go missing

Planning officers initial comments sheet is a vital bit as are developers submissions both to planning and also there may have been coucillor meetings too
All of which should be documented but they need to be very vigilant

If nessecary seek the advice of a planning consultant at a local estate agents etc who can tell you if you have all the bits needed

I won 2 appeals because i knew there was a vital piece missing or measurements were incorrect

span
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by span » Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:24 pm

How high does bamboo grow anyhow? And how fast?

despair
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by despair » Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:27 pm

Not fast enough sadly

APC
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by APC » Tue Apr 24, 2018 8:17 pm

How did this go to court rather than as a high hedge complaint to the council?

APC
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by APC » Tue Apr 24, 2018 8:21 pm

despair wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 5:38 pm
Has your neighbour got hold of every shred of the documents submitted for the planning etc for these townhouses

Because usually the fact trees exist as a screen is why planning is granted and thus they cannot later demand removal of that screen
Depends whether they are protected by tpo, condition or neither. Unlikely off site vegetation will be within red line and subject to condition, also unlikely a conifer hedge would have found itself protected by tpo.

APC
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by APC » Tue Apr 24, 2018 8:29 pm

If this is Calderdale Council, their fee for high hedge complaints is £460. This will be per complaint. An individual complaint will cover one section of hedge/one property. Unless that has been paid by the complainant(s), the council has investigated the complaint and issued a remedial notice, you don't need to lift a finger.

Dave_S
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by Dave_S » Wed Apr 25, 2018 8:43 am

Hi APC,

Thanks for the reply....yes it is Calderdale Council. There are 8 new houses altogether, 4 of them adjacent to my boundary and 4 adjacent to my neighbours (within the tree line). Do you know whether or not the housing developer (who still owns the houses and rents them out) can bring the complaint (and pay for it) on behalf of the tenants, or do the tenants have to do it themselves?

Everyone else: thanks for the replies also. With regards to the planning application, myself and my neighbours are aware of all the details as we fought the application (I think there was over 100 objections with zero in support). The new development breaches the Council's owning planning guidelines in multiple areas, for instance I have lost all privacy in my garden whereas before I had almost completely privacy. I objected on these grounds but the planning officers report claimed I was already overlooked anyway so it didn't matter (a complete lie). Also the distance of the houses is too close...I can stand in my kitchen and literally watch the TV in my neighbours lounge as our kitchen-lounge windows directly face each other. The distance between habitable room windows should be at least 18m by the Council's own planning rules but the closest one to me is more like 8 metres, so less than half the distance. The excuse was that planning guidelines are just that..."guidelines" and that some flexibility has to be allowed for. Fair enough but 8m not 18m is less than half the recommended distance, which just takes the p**s. So basically I'm not at all confident in the planning process since the Council approved the development even though it obviously didn't meet many of their own guidelines. I don't think we can use the loss of privacy aspect since that was of no concern to them before.

I think my neighbour is resigned to having to reduce the trees to some extent, she just doesn't want to lose £20k in the process and/or kill the trees. I'm just not sure if she can use the prevailing circumstances in her defence, in that the developer knew full-well what they were doing and the way they designed the houses (lounge and garden at the back of the house and north facing, and built into an existing tree line) almost guaranteed there would be these kind of problems in the future.

APC
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by APC » Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:42 am

Dave_S wrote:
Wed Apr 25, 2018 8:43 am
Hi APC,

Thanks for the reply....yes it is Calderdale Council. There are 8 new houses altogether, 4 of them adjacent to my boundary and 4 adjacent to my neighbours (within the tree line). Do you know whether or not the housing developer (who still owns the houses and rents them out) can bring the complaint (and pay for it) on behalf of the tenants, or do the tenants have to do it themselves?

Everyone else: thanks for the replies also. With regards to the planning application, myself and my neighbours are aware of all the details as we fought the application (I think there was over 100 objections with zero in support). The new development breaches the Council's owning planning guidelines in multiple areas, for instance I have lost all privacy in my garden whereas before I had almost completely privacy. I objected on these grounds but the planning officers report claimed I was already overlooked anyway so it didn't matter (a complete lie). Also the distance of the houses is too close...I can stand in my kitchen and literally watch the TV in my neighbours lounge as our kitchen-lounge windows directly face each other. The distance between habitable room windows should be at least 18m by the Council's own planning rules but the closest one to me is more like 8 metres, so less than half the distance. The excuse was that planning guidelines are just that..."guidelines" and that some flexibility has to be allowed for. Fair enough but 8m not 18m is less than half the recommended distance, which just takes the p**s. So basically I'm not at all confident in the planning process since the Council approved the development even though it obviously didn't meet many of their own guidelines. I don't think we can use the loss of privacy aspect since that was of no concern to them before.

I think my neighbour is resigned to having to reduce the trees to some extent, she just doesn't want to lose £20k in the process and/or kill the trees. I'm just not sure if she can use the prevailing circumstances in her defence, in that the developer knew full-well what they were doing and the way they designed the houses (lounge and garden at the back of the house and north facing, and built into an existing tree line) almost guaranteed there would be these kind of problems in the future.
I suppose that the developer could act as an agent. Why they'd want to get involved once is another matter. Each property affected by the hedge must bring their own, separate complaints, each of will be treated individually and on its own merits.

jdfi
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by jdfi » Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:47 pm

https://www.gardenlaw.co.uk/phpBB2/view ... hp?t=19963 is a similar scenario.

Sadly your neighbour will be seen as the aggressor.

The fact is that these neighbouring four houses are entitled to get a huge hedge cut down.

I do have some sympathy, but presumably you were aware that this parcel of land was for sale and your only option to prevent development was to buy it - or preferably to have fenced it off a few years ago.

Rightly in my view, the occupants of the new houses and their level of shade etc will receive more prominence than your friend and his privacy.

APC
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by APC » Wed Apr 25, 2018 11:03 pm

It doesn't matter unless they all fund their separate complaints, the council validate them and the council issue remedial notices. This combination of events although possible, is unlikely. The stumbling blocks are either the lack of will to dip into their own pocket to pay for the complaint (non refundable) or the lack of will to communicate like human beings with the hedge owner, thereby preventing the complaint for being validated.

arborlad
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by arborlad » Thu Apr 26, 2018 10:16 am

Dave_S wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:24 pm
........... the developer is now taking my neighbour to court and trying to force her to chop the trees down to 2m in height using the High Hedge Act.


2m is not the height that a hedge can be reduced to after due process, it is the height a hedge must exceed before it can be considered for action.
arborlad

smile...it confuses people

Roblewis
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Re: High Hedge Act - unusual case needs advice

Post by Roblewis » Thu Apr 26, 2018 1:33 pm

The giant bamboo will reach up to around 100ft in a couple of years and is NOT subject to the high hedges legislation and is thus not actionable by the LA. In the meantime you do need the planning information and restrictions for this site.

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