Statement by Scothedge

Statement by Scothedge in response to the issue of the Guidelines by Kevin Stewart MSP and Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning.

Scothedge was formed as a lobbying and interest group to represent individuals affected by the unneighbourly nuisance of high hedges and trees. Working with Mark MacDonald MSP a private members bill was passed in 2013 "The High Hedges (Scotland) Act 2013". To support the Act a set of Guidelines were issued in April 2014 by the Scottish Office.    As with any new legislation some time was required for the interpretation and working of the Act and Guidelines to be seen. It was clear from early applications that the Act and its intentions were being interpreted in different ways by Local Authorities and that in effect there was a post code lottery as to whether or not an affected proprietor would get access to the Act let alone obtain an order under it. Scothedge remained involved trying to assist individuals and also trying to obtain a clearer and more consistent approach to the implementation of the intentions of the Act. This involvement resulted in securing a revision to the Guidelines which were issued in May 2016.   Despite this further revision of the guidelines, the Act continued to be applied in an inconsistent and generally unsatisfactory manner. In line with Government process, although earlier than expected, a Scrutiny Committee was established to consider the workings and failings of the Act.    Scothedge gave evidence along with other interested parties to this committee.   

Key finding and statements of this committee were:-

  1. That the flexibility around the interpretation originally envisaged by the member who introduced the bill was not being used in practice and that applicants were being  refused access to the Act despite clear detrimental impact on an individuals reasonable enjoyment of their property.
  2. The committee recommended that revised  guidance should be considered in terms of the impact the vegetation had rather than whether or not the barrier was originally planted as a hedge.
  3. Hedge owners were circumventing the Act by altering the appearance of their “hedge “ prior to inspection by Local Authorities or the Reporter.
  4. Disparity of fees across the country.
  5. The Local Authorities who gave evidence to that committee were very much in favour of narrowing the scope of the Act (as they had wished from the outset ) but this was not recommended by the Committee.   

Outcome

Once again, a revision of the Guidelines was recommended to deal with the shortcomings and to endeavour to secure appropriate access to the Act and to the intentions lying behind its passing.


Scothedge made rigorous and robust representations to the latest draft Guidelines, requested meetings with Kevin Stewart MSP and the opportunity to discuss the detail of the proposals.  These have either been ignored or disregarded.


New Guidelines were issued on 24th January 2019.   These in the opinion of Scothedge now make access to this Act extremely limited and defeat in very large part the original intentions of the Act. Indeed, it could be argued that the Guidelines now provide a charter to bad neighbours as to how to mismanage their trees and hedges to defeat any application under the Act.

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This is a picture from the Government website of a supposed appropriate situation.

Under New guidance this would no longer qualify as a High Hedge, as it appears it has had no previous management as a hedge.

Surely this type of situation should be covered and is at the core of the original intentions. 

People in Scotland deserve legislation, which is enforced and pursued by its local authorities in a consistent manner to prevent bad neighbourly behaviour and barriers to light.

Instead in this instance the will of Parliament it appears to us has been seriously circumvented by the issue of misguided Guidelines.

If you are affected by unmanaged rows of trees and hedges please right to your MSP now urging again for a review.