High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013
The High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013 took effect on 1st April 2014. The Act aims to provide a solution to the problem of high hedges, where neighbours have not been able to resolve the issue amicably, by providing an effective means of resolving disputes over the effects of high hedges which interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of domestic property. The Act gives home owners and occupiers a right to apply to their local authority for a high hedge notice and empowers local authorities to make and enforce decisions in relation to high hedges in their local area.
Definition of a high hedge
A high hedge, as defined by the Act, must comprise of a row of two or more trees or shrubs; rise to a height of more than two metres above ground level; and form a barrier to light. Not all hedges over two metres in height will automatically be classified as a "high hedge". This will only happen where a formal complaint is made via a high hedge notice application and that complaint is upheld by the council. A hedge would not be regarded as forming a barrier to light if it contains gaps which reduce its overall effect as a barrier at heights exceeding two metres.
All types of hedge will be considered by the Act, whether they are evergreen, semi-evergreen, or deciduous. However any hedge not rising more than two metres above ground level cannot be considered as a "high hedge".
What is not covered by the Act
The Act does not cover single trees and it does not take the roots of a high hedge into account. The legislation does not apply to trees which do not form a hedge. Two trees growing together does not automatically form a hedge, for example well-spaced tree lines and avenues are not generally considered as a hedge even if coalesce*. Similarly, woodland edges are not classified as hedges.
(* = grow together)
The high hedges legislation does not cover overhanging branches or blockages caused by falling leaves. However, under common law provisions, householders have the right to cut branches back to the boundary between the respective properties. It is recommended you let you neighbour know if you intend to do this.