High Hedges are dealt with under Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 which came into operation in England on 1 June 2005.
Provided they have tried and exhausted all other avenues for resolving their hedge dispute, people are now able to take their complaint about a neighbour's evergreen hedge to their local authority.
Councils may charge a fee for providing this service. Fees vary between councils and can be substantial. The fee is intended to encourage people to try to settle private disputes amicably, making sure that involving the council really is a last resort. The fee is also intended to help deter frivolous or vexatious complaints.
The role of the local authority is not to mediate or negotiate between the complainant and the hedge owner but to adjudicate on whether - in the words of the Act - the hedge is adversely affecting the complainant's reasonable enjoyment of their property.
In doing so, the authority must take account of all relevant factors and must strike a balance between the competing interests of the complainant and hedge owner, as well as the interests of the wider community.
If they consider the circumstances justify it, the local authority will issue a formal notice to the hedge owner which will set out what they must do to the hedge to remedy the problem, and when by.
Failure to carry out the works required by the authority is an offence which, on prosecution, could lead to a fine of up to 1,000 GBP.