High Hedges are dealt with under Part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 which came into operation in Wales on 31 December 2004.
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. The maximum fee that can be applied in Wales is £320. The fee is payment for a service and it is for local planning authorities to decide whether to charge, and what the charge should be, within the maximum allowed. 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.
Under the Act the complainant or owner or occupier of the land where the hedge is situated can appeal to the Welsh Ministers.
Failure to carry out the works required by the authority is an offence which, on prosecution, could lead to a fine.
Guidance on the high hedges complaints system in Wales can be obtained from the Welsh Government by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.